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Birding Cadiz (& nearby) (1 Viewer)

Vultures and Bushchats:
I had a similar experience with Vultures at Marchenilla once. This time it was a dead sheep being protected by a large dog - they are usually very good guard dogs. But I think this one was particularly keen to see off the birds because he was partaking of a little Mutton himself! It was very comical watching as he chased off a bunch of birds to one side, the birds on the other side would close in, causing the dog to head that way leaving the coast clear for the other side to return. It reminded me of an ancient film (Key-stone Cops era) of a Butcher seeing off a few thieves doing a similar job on his shop-front. Looking more closely at the assembled throng one of them was much darker and deserving of some photos. Later consultation with some Spanish friends confirmed my thoughts that it was a Ruppell's Vulture.

Up along the Guadalqiver River, the old main road between Los Palacios and Seville (N4? my memory is poor so sorry if this is wrong - nothing wrong with this memory - N4 is right - looked it up in my notebook!) There's a dangerous turn off to a very small laguna which has a huge Heron/egret colony plus pretty much everything else you want, (the farm is called Mejorada) including Rufous Bushchat, on Prickly Pears! Also had a day flying Red-necked Nightjar! Waxbill, Golden Oriole, Little Bittern...
A dog was desperately and somewhat hysterically trying to keep the vultures off the dead cow below Alcala but I think the force of numbers made it back off

I checked out Laguna la Mejorada this spring for the first time in years (it will be the subject of another post anon). The road layout here has changed enormously recently as the NIV has been upgraded and the junction changed such that it's no longer a tricky turning (albeit probably harder to find). I found the place much less attractive than I recall as tracks had been widened and regraded with the loss of some habitat. Looking at eBird it seems there are fewer reports of RBCs of late from the site. There are some more attractive sites nearby ...
Great information about Trebujena - I wish I had known about it the last time I was in the province; Rufous Bushchat is my remaining bogey bird in Spain!
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It was good to see that birding in Cadiz had such a high profile at the Global Bird Fair when I visited on Friday. There was the launch of the English version of the "Birdwatching Calendar of the Province of Cadiz" (recommended)1658055952845.png

Also an excellent talk on the restoration of parts of La Janda see

Good to meet so many old, online & new Spanish friends too ...


A trio of worthwhile short detours en route to/from Seville

If you fly into Seville early in the morning (or are departing late in the day) then it’s worth considering a detour to some of the excellent birding sites not too far off your route. Brazo del Este is a good option for wetland birds if driving down to Tarifa whilst the Osuna area is well worth a look for Great Bustard should you be heading towards Grazalema. However, both large sites which need time to cover and may, perhaps, be further off your route than ideal. Fortunately, if time’s short or you just want a quick break there are a trio of interesting sites around Los Palacios y Villafranca only 5-10 mins off your route. I don't know any of these sites at all well so have a look at the checklists on eBird to get a fuller picture.


Languna la Merjorada (149 species reported via eBird - see https://ebird.org/hotspot/L3715488)
Fortunately, the most well-known of these sites, Laguna La Merjorada (aka Lago Diego Puerta), is only a couple of minutes off Junction 565 on the N IV (and if coming from the south on the E5 it’s still only a about 10 minutes away via the centre of town). The laguna has been long known as a site for two sought after species, Rufous Bushchat and (Western) Olivaceous Warbler.

Exit towards the NIVa towards Los Palacios y Villafranca but at the roundabout take the service road north for c250 m and turn right along a narrow track (look for a gap in the crash barrier). Take care as this track is very narrow and shrouded by vegetation obscuring the approach of other vehicles. After c300m park by the corner of the laguna. Alternatively, you can drive a further 750m to turn right and follow the agricultural canal to loop around to the same spot. In season Collared Pratincoles and hirundines hawk over the canal but the laguna itself is screened by a dense growth of tamarisks and clumps of bamboo which hold and (Western) Olivaceous Warbler. (Note that this track is in good condition and, surprisingly, shown on Google Streetview but the one along the western edge of the site is rutted and unsuitable for motor vehicles).

Views across the laguna from the parking spot are good so you should pick up Whiskered Tern (there’s been a recent spring count of 60 here) and various ducks with ease here. Explore on foot for warblers (Olivaceous, Melodious, Reed, Great Reed) and exotics (inc. Yellow-crowned Bishop, Black-headed Weaver & Common Waxbill). This can be a good spot for herons too and I have had Purple & Squacco Heron, Little Bittern and egrets here. The dense vegetation provides a safe retreat for a spectacular winter roost of herons/egrets. A recent count on eBird found 1,300 Cattle Egret, 230 Night Herons & 6,000 White Stork (plus 3,000 LBBG) present in winter 2021. Note that in winter Bluethroat also occur. The site has also held scarcities such as Marbled Duck & Red-knobbed Coot in the recent past. For more details of the species recorded here see eBird.

However, one of the big disappointments of my recent visit was finding that the widening and regrading of the tracks here has, if my recollection is correct, destroyed an extensive prickly pear hedge and some other scrub previously home to Rufous Bushchat at this site (esp along the track to the canal). If this is the case, then it may go some way in explaining the relative dearth of reports of this species here in recent years (although its national decline must also be relevant). Whichever the case this site no longer seems to be the site it once was for this iconic species. That said, reports on eBird clearly show that they’re still present in this wider area, particularly a couple of kilometres along tracks north of Poligono Algussa(see map).



Humedal Cerro de las Cigueñas (133 species recorded via eBird see https://ebird.org/hotspot/L7331439)
This is another site which is best accessed off the N IV via Junction 565. It is the smallest of the three sites but as it’s less than 10 minutes off your route may still be worth the short detour. Unfortunately, it’s a detour I’ve yet to make as I “discovered” this site via Google Earth when back in the UK. Not surprisingly, according to eBird it has much the same avifauna as Laguna La Merjorada albeit in smaller numbers. Savi’s Warbler has been found here.

The smaller size of the site may be advantageous in finding the birds. There’s also a hide here although photos online suggest it’s in poor repair. Given the fewer visits the total of 133 species found here is very creditable.


Humedal El Pantano (158 species recorded via eBird see https://ebird.org/hotspot/L6722670 )

This increasingly well-known site is most easily approached via the E5 from which it is c5 mins drive. The site’s relatively recent popularity stems in part from the presence of Laughing Dove here (although this species has also been seen at Laguna La Merjorada). It is not a site I know well having only visited it three times but, on each occasion, I was impressed by its potential. The first time I visited was when I was en route to Osuna so, as I quickly found Laughing Dove, I scarcely explored the site and failed to realise that the embankment along the Arroyo del Conejo/Encauzamiento del Caño de la Vera afforded good views across the marsh.

I rectified this oversight in February this year on a quick visit en route to Aeropuerto de Sevilla. The first promising change I noticed was a small car park and tower hide at the T-junction as you reach the site. Unfortunately, the view from the hide is almost entirely screened by tall reeds making it utterly dysfunctional. However, I did find the views along the embankment offered great views across of the marsh even if it hardly lived up to its name. El Pantano means ‘the swamp’ but held very little water and the mud was caked dry. Despite this it held a few waders - Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Green and Wood Sandpipers plus a party of 34 Snipe flushed by a raptor (apparently a high count for the area). A wetter area just west of the hide and viewable from the road also had Shoveler, Teal and a dozen Western Swamphen.

On my third visit in early May, again en route to Aeropuerto de Sevilla, I found the marsh not only living up to its name with several small pools but also a hive of activity. This time the swamp looked suitably ‘swampy’! A colony of c50 Black-headed Gulls produced a cacophonous racket and c18 Whiskered Terns drifted around but the most noticeable species was Glossy Ibis. The latter were constantly streaming back-and-forth making an accurate count impossible, but I guessed 100+ although there were probably many more. It was hard to judge the number of Purple Heron present, avoiding any double counting I cautiously noted a minimum seven but it could have been twice that number. Similarly, I saw Little Bittern flighting low over the reeds 6 or 7 times but erred on the side of caution by noting only 3 birds. The site also has a good track record for crakes, Savi’s Warbler, Bluethroat (migration/winter) and exotics. I’d rate it the best of the trio unless roosting egrets are your ‘thing’ (in which case try Laguna la Merjorada) or if, like me, you have a penchant for exploring lesser known sites (in which eventuality try Humedal Cerro de las Cigueñas).1658248659061.png1658248746504.png


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I'm still working my way through the "Birdwatching Calendar of the Province of Cadiz" which I hope to review on my blog and/or here anon (possibly after my next visit to the area). I assume that it should be available via Turismos across the area and, eventually, online. However, if you want to get some idea of this excellent new guide have a look at the original Spanish version which is available online at Calendario ornitológico de la provincia de Cádiz

Azure-winged Magpie - Parque Oromana, Alcala de Guadaira

I hate to admit it but Azure-winged Magpie (or 'Iberian Magpie') is one of a quartet of iconic Iberian species which is next to impossible to see in Cadiz Province. The other absent species are Bearded Vulture, Great Bustard & Black-bellied Sandgrouse. Satellite tracking has shown that Bearded Vultures are again haunting the skies of the area following the introduction programme in Andalucia but you'd need a great deal of luck to see one. The second two have been extinguished in the area as breeding birds although they may still turn up as notable rarities. Both are hanging on not too far away around the Osuna in Seville Province. However, Azure-winged Magpie is the only one that's endemic to Iberia (unless you unfashionably consider it conspecific with its Chinese relative). It's also the only one that can lay claim to having a regular site in the province at Algaida pines near Sanlucar. I've seen them there myself. However, I've not found them there for years and I know of other regular visitors who've never seen them there at all. This makes me wonder whether this is still a regular established population or one that depends upon occasional incursions from the Coto Donana (where they're common) across the Guadalquivir. Yet the latest Spanish atlas seems to show a recent extension of the species' breeding range across the Guadalquivir south of Seville and e-Bird shows some recent reports from around Los Palacios y Villafranca.

As I often fly into Seville airport I was keen to check one of these newer sites as it would save long fruitless and often hot walks through the pinewoods at Algaida. Thanks to a tip-off from Gordon Shaw (who'd been using my guide on a visit to Cadiz), I decided to check out the municipal park at Alcala de Gudaira (less than 30 mins from Seville airport) on my way back to the UK. Finding the magpies proved even easier than I'd anticipated as I saw several birds as I drove up through the pines to Hotel Oromana (a). That afternoon I walked through the park to the Dragon Bridge (b) but only found Azure-winged Magpie in the open pinewoods near the hotel. Fortunately, they were very easy to find in that area and down to the children's playground below the hotel. Also present in these open pine woods were Golden Oriole and Hoopoe. That evening and again the next morning, I had a look at the riverside woodland (c). Here I found, amongst others, Olivaceous Warbler and Iberian Green Woodpecker. I studiously tried to ignore the parakeets squawking in the trees assuming that they were Monk Parakeets (ubiquitous in many parks in Spain) but when I bothered to look I found that they were actually Rose-ringed Parakeets.



I stayed overnight in the Hotel Oromana which was surprisingly reasonably priced despite its luxurious appearance. This made birding in the park first thing in the morning very easy indeed. However, the downside of staying here was that unless you want to drive around into the town, find somewhere to park and look for a restaurant, you're stuck with having an evening meal in the hotel. This was adequate but the menu was surprisingly limited. As the Azure-winged Magpies were so easy to see with hindsight I wish I'd stayed overnight in Carmona (c25 mins away). Not only is that town, unlike Alcala de Gudaira, simply ravishing to look at & wonderful to explore, but it also has plenty of places to stay and a good range of excellent restaurants within walking range. It's even closer to the airport too. In the autumn the trees around the attractive central plaza are also home to the largest sparrow roost I've ever seen!



Although the park was very attractive, the rest of Alcala de Guadaira was an acute disappointment as most of the buildings are relatively new and characterless as befits a growing dormitory town for Seville. If there was a historic centre I never found it and it also proved difficult to find a walking route up to the fine Moorish castle. This was just as well as it transpired that the castle was closed. Worse still, when I sought directions I was warned not to walk up towards it as "bad people" live there and I'd be mugged - something I've never been warned about previously in Spain!
And the 24th raptor from my terrace is ...

In Cadiz province seeing good birds is not all about rushing around from honeypot site to honeypot site but can equally well be enjoyed from home if you've got a reasonable view. Happily, despite my little house being conveniently sited in the centre of a small town (Alcala de los Gazules), it enjoys a splendid 180-degree view across the campo towards Medina Sidonia. So sitting at home on the terrace is often my favoured activity.

This spring on the 25th April I got back to the house mid-afternoon after a disappointing and dispiriting morning on La Janda confirming that the egret colony there was indeed deserted as I had suspected it to be on my previous visit back at the start of March. I pottered around for a while sorting out a late lunch and some tapas I'd bought for visitors later that day but casually looking out of the kitchen window at about 4.00 PM I was surprised to see a dozen or more Griffons circling around in the small blue rectangle of sky I could see. Whilst not unprecedented, this is a good sign that something's afoot!

Nipping up to the terrace for a better look I found the sky awash with vultures and then, scanning the fields at the base of the steep slope that falls away from the house, I spotted a dead cow. A dog was trying to keep the vultures at bay but with only limited success as the numbers built up. Soon there were around a hundred Griffon Vultures surrounding the corpse with still more circling in the sky above. At one point I estimated c300 Griffon Vultures were present in the air, on the corpse or resting nearby but it's hard to know exactly how many vultures were involved in all as birds were constantly passing over, some without stopping, others dropping down and a few already labouriously departing heavy with food. At least 500 I thought but it could well have been 700 or more. It's impossible to be sure. Hoping that other species of vulture might be attracted to the feast I kept scanning the birds in the skies above and the ground below.

Since I see them regularly enough over my terrace or in the Molinos valley near Alcala, I suspect that Egyptian Vulture hangs on locally in the nearby Alcornocales. Accordingly, I wasn't at all surprised that afternoon to see three Egyptian Vultures in the melee around the corpse. However, I was really hoping for an addition to my terrace list, perhaps a Rüppell’s or a Black Vulture (I'm old school and have none of this Monk/Cinereous Vulture nonsense!). I knew that the first had previously been seen in the parish but increasing reports of the second in the province (some from the previous month in Campo de Medina) made that species the front runner. I kept looking but my inherent optimism was beginning to flag until, finally, at 7.00 PM I spotted a magnificent Black Vulture bouncing along the ground, wings outstretched, towards the dwindling circle of Griffons around the cow. Result! Following spotting a long overdue Spanish Imperial Eagle (an immature) a few days previously it was my 24th species of raptor from the terrace. Hopefully, when I'm back this autumn another cow will conveniently expire to increase my chances of that elusive Rüppell’s Vulture (three unco-operative possibles so far!) or perhaps a Black-winged Kite (seen within 5 km) will stray overhead to make that quarter-century. Then again satellite tracking shows a couple of the introduced Bearded Vultures have passed over close to Alcala whilst the possibility of seeing a wandering falcon of some sort - Lanner, Red-footed or Eleonora's - cannot be entirely discounted. I've had the first 40 km to the SW near Los Barrios, the second even closer (25 km) on La Janda (and one's previously been seen in Alcala) and, having had excellent views of the third in Kent this spring, I'm well set up to pick up out the third one up in the autumn!
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Love the landscape panorama and the vulture in-flight photo, in Upstate New York the most vultures I've seen personally was Black vultures and Turkey vultures. :)
Blistering Bushchats!

I first saw a Rufous Bushchat in autumn way back in 1970 on my first trip to Spain and, indeed, my first trip abroad at all. It flipped across the road and briefly perched on a wall before vanishing. Not brilliant views but enough to happily tick the species. Quite where that was, other than “southern Spain” I really can’t remember. Since then, it has declined sharply making the species still harder to find. In recent years the decline has deepened with a 95% reduction in numbers across the country, extinction in Granada and nearly so in Alicante and Murcia (98% reduction). Despite this, since visiting Cadiz province regularly, I've seen the species several times near Bolonia, near Marchenilla (Jimena de la Frontera) and at a classic site at Laguna la Mejorada near Los Palacios y Villafranca in Seville Province. However, they remained elusive with visits often drawing a blank (even on subsequent days).
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To be honest for some years my search was somewhat compromised by not really having a clear idea of what constituted prime habitat for the species. I'd seen them scuttling about small allotments at Los Palacios, glimpses of them on rocky hillsides dotted with olive trees above Bolonia and along a tamarisk choked dry streambed at Marchenilla but never, despite many searches, in the prickly-pear hedges that some books suggest they favour. Even when located, views were often brief and less satisfactory than desired. In fairness, a bird did once 'perform' well within a few metres at Bolonia but that was the day I had forgotten my camera! More typical was the memorable occasion I saw one briefly within about 10 minutes near Marchenilla before it dropped out of sight but it then took over two hours for my friends and me to relocate it. They're a declining species and they certainly seem to have become still more elusive around Bolonia than when I first visited the area over a decade ago.
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However, after a visit in autumn 2019 and subsequently, in 2022, I think I’ve managed to crack it. I've known for years that they were supposed be in the "Sanlucar area" but never had any specific details and a Spanish birding friend with family in the area wasn’t sure where they were to be found these days either. Finally, in autumn 2019 I managed to investigate the circular route north of Trebujena, something I'd been meaning to do since my first brief visit there years earlier (changes in my personal circumstances prevented me from looking earlier). The area around Trebujena I was set to explore, looked promising dominated as it is by low-intensity vineyards (unlike most in the 'sherry triangle'). Knowing birds start to depart in mid August, I wasn't confident that I'd see one on that first search of the area on 5th September 2019. Fortunately, when I randomly stopped a couple of kilometres along the route, up popped small family party of the birds. Another couple of kilometres along the road there were at least two more birds. Job done!

Later that month (16th September) two birding friends from Kent, freshly out from the UK, joined me for another search for this iconic species. Once more, being conscious that the migration clock was still ticking, I wasn't over-optimistic of success. I should have known better. Within minutes of our arrival at the first location a bushchat which obliged by giving us excellent views. The next stop, of course, was the second site where I'd seen them earlier. It took us a little longer to see than earlier, but our target again showed itself well.

Then something quite magical happened. A man working the land nearby came over to see what all the excitement was about and it was clear from the start that he knew the species very well. Not only that but he told us there were still some on his plot and invited us to come and look for ourselves. We did and there were! We walked around with him and, sure enough, saw our quarry - 3 or 4 of them. "Seňor Paco" was evidently delighted by our success telling us to come back any time. He plainly knew and cared about his "Caberrubia" (redtail), the species' local name in Trebujena. (The more usual name, Spanish name Alzacola is arguably better still as it means 'lift-tail'). He was a lovely bloke not only insisting on giving one of us a straw hat (concerned that she was hatless) but also collecting a small crate of his produce to present to us. It was a terrific end to a wonderful morning.
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I fully intended to return in spring 2020 but Covid delayed my plans until 3rd May 2022. Once again, I wasn’t confident about seeing them not because they might have gone but because they might yet to arrive. Happily, I found a singing bird at the first place I checked (which was about 400m short of where I'd had a pair with young last autumn). A check at the latter site was unproductive but a look at a third location produced a second bird.

A few days later on the 7th May after finding Pin-tailed Sandgrouse nearby I went back for another look. This time, as I was arriving from the opposite direction, I tried my third RBC site first. When I got there, I pulled off next to a minibus and just as I got out of the car a group of four birders appeared from the other side of the road. Speaking one of them, Stefan Schlick, I discovered that they were from Oregon and had been looking, unsuccessfully, for Rufous Bushchat. What could I do other than show them where I'd seen the birds in the past? After a couple of false starts, we pulled off where I'd seen one on the 3rd. We got out of the vehicles and, as I pointed out where to look, the bird flew past us singing! Only having previously seen them sing from a perch, I hadn't realised that they also perform a song-flight! We all subsequently had fantastic 'scope views! Brilliant stuff!

Since my newfound friends hadn’t contacted yet with Lesser Short-toed Lark or many waders, I offered to show them Marisma de Cetina of which, unsurprisingly, they’d never heard. First, though, as this was a tour group and it was just past midday, they insisted on finding somewhere to eat and generously treated me to lunch. En route, we checked Laguna de Medina for Red-knobbed Coot which, to my annoyance, failed to show for the first time on my visits there on recent visits. Naturally, Cetina came up trumps with not only both short-toed larks but also a range of waders (including Lapwing which was high on their ‘wants’ list) and an unexpected Little Gull. I really don’t know who was more delighted, them to have someone to act as their guide who knew the area or me to have people to show it to! Either way, it was a great day.

Understandably, many more people are looking for Rufous Bushchats here as it is now the species' main stronghold in Spain with over 100 pairs in the area and with multiple sightings in this area on eBird (see A Fantastic Tail for more details about this population). Driving carefully around the 'circuit' here (see map) pulling over where possible to scan for birds or walking some of the paths should soon produce a sighting (esp before 10.00 AM). Even if you're unlucky you should still see a good variety of species. However, please bear in mind that:
  • Despite being relatively common here it is a rare and declining species in Spain
  • Give the birds space, let them come to you (esp. in the short breeding season)
  • The birds are always more important than getting a photo or a better look
  • Do not use ‘playback’ (which is probably illegal in the breeding season)
  • Remember that the goodwill and interest of the local community here are of paramount importance in conserving this species so avoid disrupting agricultural activities
  • Park sensibly; using your car as a hide can be effective
  • Explore on foot where possible sticking to tracks and posted footpaths
  • Act as an ambassador for birding – in my experience, if you’re pleasant, considerate & friendly then you’ll be repaid with generosity, kindness & interest.

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I looked around that 'Trebujena Triangle' in the midst of your visits (on 4th May) and dipped spectacularly. Good to know that it was just my ineptitude and not a lack of birds that was the reason. :)

Restoration plans 400 ha of Laguna de la Janda

At the Global Bird Fair in July 2022 a new and very exciting plans were unveiled to improve the habitat in a small but part of the old Laguna de La Janda. Depending on rainfall and evapouration this ancient laguna once covered between 4,000 - 7,000 hectares although never to more than 2-3 metres in depth. Hence on maps it sometimes it appears as a thin sausage-shape, a lozenge or, at its greatest extent in wet years, a huge boomerang stretching north-east to include Laguna de Espartinas. In fact, in some ways the name Laguna de la Janda is a misnomer as Lagunas de la Janda (as it is sometimes styled) would be more apt since in drier times it became a string of smaller lagunas – Aguila, Rehuelga, Espartinas, Jandilla, Tapatana y la Haba, Tapantanilla and Cabrahigos. I've not found the latter on any map so I've assumed (quite possibly incorrectly) on my map that it's synonymous with Laguna del Hiero which I have found. Laguna de Alcala and Laguna del Torero usually (if not always) seem to have been comparatively isolated outliers. Some of these satellite lagunas were close in size to Laguna de Medina so must have been impressive sites for wildlife in their own right. Today the Rio Barbate (with a minor road beside it) still squeezes between two low hills just east of Vejer before opening out at the site of Laguna del Torero. Occasionally heavy rains mean that the old laguna tries to reassert itself and by squinting your eyes you can almost imagine it's still there. I've seen various herons, White and Black Stork and Cranes there in the past but birds like Red-knobbed Coot are long gone. 1659434443611.png
Plans for restoring a slice of the old laguna have been around for over twenty years but nothing ever came of them as the legal position was disputed for years. This time, however, there seems grounds for quiet optimism. First, the legal position now seems more clear-cut than before. Second, the plans are a result of collaboration with half-a-dozen or so local organisations and have the support of still more national and international organisations (inc. the IUCN, WWF & SEO). A third consideration is the eventual success of the campaign to open a previously closed pedestrian/cycle route on La Janda along the Canal de Churriana and on to El Canal. Perhaps most importantly, the fourth reason is that publicity and funding from the Global Bird Fair should ensure the plans have a high profile and sufficient financial backing.

The ambition, scope and detail presented at the bird fair were impressive. I’ve drawn a map of my own to put the plan into context within the area involved (highlighted in green on the main map) and inserted a map showing Stodmarsh NNR to give some idea of context for British birders (or at least those in SE England) who don’t know the place. The similarities don’t stop with a broadly comparable size but also the mix of farmland and wetland.


The attractive artist’s impression of the site and maps give a good idea of what is intended. If additional land is purchased, then the area involved will be a shade over 400 ha of which almost 100 ha will be farmed (irrigated & unirrigated), 100 ha converted into a wetland (including small lagunas and reedbeds), 62 ha restored grasslands, 7 ha of woodlands (some of which will screen the site from the road) and 2 ha improved flooding. The plan also includes better access, hides, a visitors’ centre and its use as an educational resource. One of the aspects of the plan which makes it, in my view, a more viable prospect is that the area devoted to ‘ecological farming’ will not only provide a model for others to follow but also provide funds to run the reserve. In my experience too many projects of this nature in Spain founder because there isn’t a regular source of funding. The area may be minuscule compared to what has been lost but it's a start.

Overview of the planned changes

When, not if, this scheme goes ahead it will owe much to the tireless work over decades by the Asociación Amigos de la Laguna de La Janda and many other Spanish enthusiasts. Without their ambition and determination, none of this could have happened. Despite setbacks and disappointments, they have continued to fight not only for what was and is their patrimony but also for the birds and hispanophile birders everywhere. I've only given a thumbnail sketch of the plans here so check out their website Laguna de La Janda (lagunalajanda.org) for more details and how you can support their work. For an excellent explanation (despite the indifferent quality of the video) watch the talk given by Javier Elorriaga and Manuel Morales at the Global Bird Fair at
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Whenever I've been to La Janda and driven the embankment from the bridge at the south end of the now ex-Egret colony to the Vejer road it is always great for birds when there is any significant water in the fields. So it looks as if they have chosen an excellent sight. Very much hope it comes to fruition. I recall that in the field at the bridge one autumn there were conservatively reckoned to be 2000 Glossy Ibis, with more arriving in large groups form the North all the time (from the colony in the Coto by the Antonio Valverde Centre). More power to them I say.
Birdwatching Calendar of the Province of Cadiz - a short review

I've now finished looking through the new “Birdwatching Calendar of the Province of Cadiz” published by Cadiz Turismo which has a history of producing useful ornithological guides to the region. Arguably this effort is the best yet. The author, Manuel Morales, is one of the region’s premier bird guides (see About Us | Birding Tarifa) which is reflected in the knowledgeable content. For a more detailed review with photos of the guide see my blog (address below). However, I've summarised the main points below.

This guide was originally published in Spanish (see Calendario ornitológico de la provincia de Cádiz - worth a look even if you don’t read Spanish to access the QR codes). After a brief ‘How to use this guide’ introduction, there are three pages devoted to the author’s “Top Ten” iconic species representative of the region’s habitats - Spanish Imperial Eagle, Bald Ibis, Bonelli’s Eagle, Little Swift, Marbled Duck, Red-knobbed Coot, Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin, Slender-billed Gull, Rüppell’s Vulture and Cory’s Shearwater. Although one can quibble about the selection, most birders would pick a very similar line-up of special birds.

The “top ten” is followed by a dozen pages summarising the habitats and birdlife of each region. Aesthetically, this is beautifully presented with an attractive layout and some excellent bird photos. Personally, I’d have preferred a more detailed text at the expense of aesthetics (particularly where the Bay of Cadiz is concerned since the text gives no idea of the impressive number of birds using this area). However, I suspect that the target readership will be happy with the balance between the content and the guide’s visual attractiveness.

The ’meat’ of the book is the 36 pages devoted to the birds to be seen in and the sites to visit in each of six ‘natural regions’ (see map) at every month of the year. The three-page overview for each month gives a representative example of the birds expected in each region at that time and is linked to a fourth page that suggests sites to visit. For example, in February the focus is on Spoonbills in the Bay of Cadiz (Site - La Caseria Beach, San Fernando) , Great-spotted Cuckoos near La Janda (Site - Mesa de la Mediana, Benalup), Ring Ousels, Alpine Accentors and Redwing in the Cadiz Mountains (Site - Cerro Coros, Grazalema), Tree Sparrow on the Northwest Coast (Site - La Algaida Pine Forest, near Sanlucar ), White Storks in the Jerez countryside (Site - El Portal near Jerez) and “aguilas del viento” (literally “wind eagles” as migrating raptors are called locally) in the Campo de Gibraltar (Site - Punta Comorro).
Map of areas.png
The monthly overview for each region is somewhat brief varying in length between c30 – c80 words although this is supplemented by a short description (c25 – c30 words) about each site. This can only give the briefest of reviews of the birding possibilities in the area in each month but collectively they still convey a good idea of the province’s birding potential. This section is also beautifully illustrated by a collection of excellent photographs.

The remaining dozen pages of the book consist of a checklist of 100 species (cross-referenced to each area), useful lists of tourist offices information points/visitor centres, bird guides & relevant NGOs and, finally, two maps (showing the location of Natural Parks and other nature reserves).

This is a very attractive guide that all keen birders will benefit from reading even if it is probably aimed at the more general reader. Of course, it’s no substitute for Ernest Garcia’s “Where to Watch Birds in Southern & Western Spain” but it’s not meant to be and taken on its own terms it does a first-rate job of promoting the province as a birding destination throughout the year, not just at peak migration times. It’s certainly very welcome that the Cadiz tourism authorities take birdwatching so seriously and have knowledgeable advocates like Manuel Morales (amongst others) to plead the cause. I assume that it will be available from Tourist offices in the region and in due course online like the Spanish version.
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Just back from an excellent autumnal visit to Cadiz Province. I was away for four weeks but didn't have a car until the last 12 days. Birding from the terrace in Alcala de los Gazules was rather slow with only small numbers of raptors passing over. However, I did see my second Spanish Imperial Eagle and second Bonelli's Eagle from the house. The final total of species recorded was 174 but could easily have been nine or ten higher had I gone up into the Alcornocales/Grazalema or over to Osuna. Thanks in good measure to my first pelagic out of Cadiz I had seven province ticks (European & Wilson's Storm-Petrels, Grey Phalarope & Roseate Tern on the pelagic, a Pectoral Sandpiper on La Janda, Ortolan Bunting near Medina Sidonia and Elegant Tern, a lifer, at El Puerto de Santa Maria). More to follow on sites and specifics ...

1 Red-legged Partridge

2 Common Pheasant

3 Northern Pintail

4 Northern Shoveler

5 Common Teal

6 Eurasian Wigeon

7 Mallard

8 Gadwall

9 Common Pochard

10 Ferruginous Pochard

11 Marbled Teal

12 Red-crested Pochard

13 White-headed Duck

14 Common Shelduck

15 Iberian Green Woodpecker

16 Eurasian Hoopoe

17 Common Kingfisher

18 European Bee-eater

19 Monk Parakeet

20 Rose-ringed Parakeet

21 Little Swift

22 Common Swift

23 Pallid Swift

24 Tawny Owl

25 Little Owl

26 Red-necked Nightjar

27 Feral Pigeon

28 Wood-Pigeon

29 Eurasian Collared-Dove

30 European Turtle-Dove

31 Common Coot

32 Red-knobbed Coot

33 Common Moorhen

34 Purple Swamphen

35 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse

36 Common Sandpiper

37 Turnstone

38 Sanderling

39 Dunlin

40 Knot

41 Pectoral Sandpiper*

42 Little Stint

43 Temminck's Stint

44 Common Snipe

45 Bar-tailed Godwit

46 Black-tailed Godwit

47 Whimbrel

48 Grey Phalarope*

49 Ruff

50 Spotted Redshank

51 Wood Sandpiper

52 Common Greenshank

53 Green Sandpiper

54 Common Redshank

55 Eurasian Thick-knee

55 Kentish Plover

56 Little Ringed Plover

57 Ringed Plover

58 Oystercatcher

59 Black-winged Stilt

60 Grey Plover

61 Avocet

62 Lapwing

63 Collared Pratincole

64 Black Tern

65 Yellow-legged Gull

66 Lesser Black-backed Gull

67 Slender-billed Gull

68 Mediterranean Gull

69 Black-headed Gull

70 Arctic Skua

71 Great Skua

72 Little Tern

73 Lesser Crested-Tern

74 Caspian Tern

75 Roseate Tern*


76 Common Tern

77 Sandwich Tern

78 Northern Goshawk

79 Sparrowhawk

80 Spanish Imperial Eagle

81 Common Buzzard

82 Short-toed Snake-Eagle

83 Marsh-Harrier

84 Montagu's Harrier

85 Black-winged Kite

86 Eurasian Griffon

87 Ruppell's Griffon

88 Bonelli's Eagle

89 Booted Eagle

90 Black Kite

91 Red Kite

92 Egyptian Vulture

93 Osprey

94 Honey-buzzard

95 Merlin

96 Lesser Kestrel

97 Peregrine Falcon

98 Common Kestrel

99 Little Grebe

100 Gannet

101 Cormorant

102 Grey Heron

103 Purple Heron

104 Cattle Egret

105 Little Egret

106 Little Bittern

107 Black-crowned Night-Heron

108 Greater Flamingo

109 Bald Ibis

110 Glossy Ibis

111 Eurasian Spoonbill

112 White Stork

113 Black Stork

114 Cory's Shearwater

115 Balearic Shearwater

116 European Storm-Petrel*

117 Wilson's Storm-Petrel*

118 Woodchat Shrike

119 Common Raven

120 Eurasian Jackdaw

121 Jay

122 Golden-Oriole

123 Magpie

124 Pied Flycatcher

125 Common Nightingale

126 Bluethroat

127 Blue Rock-Thrush

128 Spotted Flycatcher

129 Northern Wheatear

130 Black Redstart

131 Common Redstart

132 Blackbird

133 Spotless Starling

134 Nuthatch

135 Short-toed Tree-Creeper

136 Great Tit

137 Blue Tit

138 Long-tailed Tit

139 House-Martin

140 Red-rumped Swallow

141 Swallow

142 Sand Martin

143 Crag Martin

144 Firecrest

145 Zitting Cisticola

146 Eurasian Reed-Warbler

147 Cetti's Warbler

148 Melodious Warbler

149 Chiffchaff

150 Willow Warbler

151 Blackcap

152 Garden Warbler

153 Subalpine Warbler

154 Common Whitethroat

155 Spectacled Warbler

156 Sardinian Warbler

157 Lesser Short-toed Lark

158 Thekla’s Lark

159 Calandra Lark

160 Tawny Pipit

161 Common Waxbill

162 Grey Wagtail

163 Yellow Wagtail

164 House Sparrow

165 Spanish Sparrow

166 Linnet

167 European Goldfinch

168 European Greenfinch

169 Serin

170 Cirl Bunting

171 Ortolan Bunting*

172 Chaffinch

173 Great Spotted Woodpecker

174 Crested Tit
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Reposting this & a couple of other posts here rather than the thread on the Strait of Gibraltar & La Janda (where I posted it in error). My posts are about a larger area so I started an alternative thread.

When I first visited Andalucia in the 1970s the whale-watching industry didn't exist but when I returned in the early 2000s it had become a significant touristic attraction in Tarifa. I went on a couple of trips hoping to see a few seabirds as well as whales. As hoped, I managed to obtain some excellent views of Cory's Shearwater and somewhat fewer (and more distant) views of Balearic Shearwater (plus Great Skua & Audouin's Gull). However, piggybacking on jaunts to see cetaceans is no substitute for a focussed birding pelagic.

Happily, the ornithological tourism industry in Cadiz province is now so well-developed and popular that pelagics are now part of the regular birding calendar. As I recall, the first few birding pelagics were organised out of Tarifa but Chipiona quickly became the more popular option. However, my first taste of pelagic birding here was out of Cadiz on 17th September this year. This jaunt was organised by Manuel Morales (Birding Tarifa www.birdingtarifa.com/en).

As well as myself & Kent birder Barry Wright, the skipper and Manuel, there were two local Spanish birders, an Australian, two Dutch birders (one of whom had exceptional eyesight which helped greatly later on) and an ex-pat British birder, Ricky Owen, on the boat. Our first ornithological delight was a Roseate Tern on the harbour wall - a Spanish tick for me and my first Roseate Tern for decades.

As the boat headed out into the Golfo de Cádiz, we soon started to see Balearic Shearwaters (our final total was c40 birds) and European Storm-petrels (our total was also c40 birds). Despite the calm conditions, the latter were difficult to see as they skittered quickly past just above the water and, for once, I found myself regretting that I had changed from x8 binoculars to x10 as every lurch of the boat was magnified. After a handful of stormies (a Spanish tick), another petrel hove into view which was clearly something different. There was some speculation that it was a Leach's as it lacked European Storm-petrel's pale bar on the underwing. I found this ID unconvincing but fortunately, Barry had the presence of mind to get several photos of the bird which confirmed that it was a Wilson's Storm-petrel. The clinching feature was that its toes clearly extended beyond the tail. Another Spanish tick and my first for thirty-odd years. Another Spanish tick and again my first for many years was a far more co-operative Grey Phalarope Cory's Shearwater, Arctic Skua and Bottle-nosed Dolphins also had walk-on parts in the drama.

Fortunately, pelagic birding trips out of Cadiz & Chipiona are now firmly on the autumnal birding agenda so if you're planning a jaunt to the area in August/September check with local bird guides to see if they're running trips whilst you're in the area. (For a more detailed account & photos see my blog)


Boarding the boat with Ricky Owen (with organiser Manuel Morales in the background)

Desembocadura de Rio San Pedro


Another repost ....

Sandwiched between the approach to the impressive Puente De La Constitución De 1812 into Cadiz and Puerto Real, the Barriada Rio San Pedro is a slightly shabby suburb saved by a pleasant esplanade overlooking the Desembocadura (= rivermouth) de Rio San Pedro and the Los Toruños Natural Park beyond. The Playa de Levante (the west-facing beach of the Los Toruños peninsula can be rather disturbed so gulls and terns often roost on the sandy beach opposite as it is protected and isolated by saltmarshes.

My first visit here this September did not disappoint as I managed to see my first lifer in Spain for a decade or more - Elegant Tern. The second visit wasn't too shabby either as I had Lesser Crested Tern. With such a track record it's no surprise to discover that this site (along with Montijo beach, nr Chipiona) has a growing reputation as THE site to see rare terns in Cadiz in autumn. Playa de los Lances (Tarifa) once almost had a monopoly of 'orange-billed' terns in the area but I suspect that in large measure this reflected where the birders were as much as where the terns were.

This site seems to be best for roosting terns and gulls about an hour or so before high tide when birds are pushed up along the river as the vast expanse of the mud & sand on the seaward side of the Los Toruños peninsula disappears. A 'scope is invaluable here since the birds are generally c100-150m away on the far side of the Rio San Pedro (although I got lucky with the Elegant Tern as it lingered for a while on the nearside of the river). If you get your timing right expect to see hundreds of gulls (inc. Mediterranean, Slender-billed & Audouin's) and a good mix of terns (Caspian, Sandwich, Common & Black). Orange-billed terns are generally to be found amongst Sandwich Terns and, unless they're sleeping or hidden by other birds, shouldn't be too hard to pick out with a 'scope. However, distinguishing Lesser Crested and Elegant (see Orange-billed terns photo ID guide - BirdGuides) is another matter so I was happy to be with birders who'd seen the species before! The site also has a good range of waders although these too tend to be distant and other sites in the area are better. Small passerines shouldn't be ignored as the pines along the esplanade can hold a good numbers of flycatchers, redstarts, etc in the autumn. eBird account lists 106 species for this site (see https://ebird.org/hotspot/L11907457 ).

The site is reached by heading towards Cadiz Norte via the Puente De La Constitución De 1812 but turning off to follow signs into Barriada Rio San Pedro. The river is behind the blocks of flats to your left.


And another ...


A change of pace for this post as I'm looking at some ornitho-history and a suburban site of relatively little interest in the scheme of things but still a useful site for those on a short or weekend trip to Jerez de la Frontera who want to squeeze in a little birding.

Laguna de Torrox (or Laguna de Torro) was once a celebrated wetland just south of Jerez de la Frontera well known to pioneer British hunter/naturalists Able Chapman and Walter J Buck (see http://www.entornoajerez.com/2012/09/la-laguna-de-torrox-cronica-de-una_28.html). Chapman and Buck who introduced a generation of Victorians and Edwardians to the fauna of Andalucia through their two best-selling books Wild Spain (1893) and Unexplored Spain (1910). These books later inspired Guy Mountfort et al to visit Andalucia in the 1950s and their expeditions and Mountfort's book "Portrait of a Wilderness: The story of the Coto Doñana Expeditions" (1958) were instrumental in the creation of the Coto Donana reserve.

In '"Unexplored Spain" Chapman and Buck wrote about what must surely be Laguna de Torrox as follows: "Even Jerez with its 60,000 inhabitants boasts no suburban zone. Within half an hour's walk one may witness scenes in wild bird-life for the like of which home-staying naturalists sigh in vain. We are at our "home- marsh," a mile or two away : it is mid-February. Within fifteen yards a dozen stilts stalk in the shallows; hard by is a group of godwits, some probing the ooze, the rest preening in eccentric outstretched poses. Beyond, the drier shore is adorned by snow- white egrets [Ardea hubulcus), some perched on our cattle, relieving their tick-tormented hides. Thus, within less than fifty yards, we have in view three of the rarest and most exquisite of British birds. And the list can be prolonged. A marsh-harrier in menacing flight, his broad wings brushing the bulrushes, sweeps across the bog, startling a mallard and snipes ; there are storks and whimbrels in sight (the latter possibly slender-billed curlew), and a pack of lesser bustard crouch within 500 yards in the palmettos. From a marsh-drain springs a green sandpiper; and as we take our homeward way, serenaded by bull-frogs and mole-crickets, there resounds over- head the clarion-note of cranes cleaving their way due north. (see- archive.org/details/unexploredspain00chaprich/page/n9/mode/2up).

Mention of palmettos reminds me that it was reputed to be one of the last areas the Andalucian Hemipode could be found near Jerez. When Roger Tory Peterson joined Mountfort et al on one of his expeditions to paint and familiarise himself with European birds for his forthcoming field guide this was a species he was keen to see. He succeeded in doing so but only because a barber in Jerez had one in a cage, perhaps it was caught here.

Inevitably, the growth of Jerez's population since then to just over 213,000 has impinged on this small wilderness to such an extent that it is now little more than an ornamental pond in an an urban park at the edge of the city. In fact, it's questionable whether it should really bear the name of its antecedent being almost entirely the artificial creation of developers. Although larger than its namesake, embanked and constrained it must bear little resemblance to the site Chapman and Buck knew. The old lagoon survived into the 1960s but was neglected and abused. Even its replacement has suffered neglect (see http://www.entornoajerez.com/2012/09/la-laguna-de-torrox-cronica-de-una_28.html).


So, this is probably not a site a keen visiting birder will detour to on a birding jaunt to the area, but for those staying in Jerez with a family or without any means of transport, it does allow the opportunity to see some birds that might otherwise be missed. Besides, as any seasoned birder knows good birds can turn up in unexpected places and with drought conditions any sheet of water will draw birds and two small islands on the laguna offer a safe roosting place for herons, cormorants and ducks.


It's c2.5 km from the city centre so should take c30 mins to walk there. Happily, however, the No13 bus runs to the laguna and both the No 8 & 9 stop in Ave. Puerta del Sol from where it's a five-minute walk (along Calle Austria & Ave. de Italia). Even on my very brief visit I had Little Egret, Night Heron, Spoonbill, Black-tailed Godwit, Green Sandpiper, Red-rumped Swallow, Cetti's Warbler, Common Redstart, Pied and Spotted Flycatchers. A check on e-Bird shows that 110 species have been recorded here including Purple Swamphen, Little Bittern, Bluethroat and even Red-knobbed Coot (see - https://ebird.org/hotspot/L12777970) The north-western arm of the laguna seemed to offer most promise with reeds and exposed mud offering cover and a source of food for passing birds.
El Berrueco


It's hardly surprising that the raptor passage across the strait is invariably the first thing that comes to mind when birders consider Cadiz Province or that a close second tends to be various Iberian or Mediterranean specialties like Lesser Short-toed Lark, Black Wheatear, etc. What tends to be forgotten, or perhaps not appreciated at all, is that many common (or in some cases formerly common) passerines also get funneled down through SW Andalucia as they approach Africa. This was brought home to me in mid-September as I stood in a municipal park just over the border in Seville Province and found myself surrounded by a dozen or so Pied Flycatchers - more than I'd expect to see in a whole autumn in Kent. Even though I was there to help (successfully) a friend find two lifers, Iberian Green Woodpecker and Azure-winged Magpie, for me the highlight was seeing 'commoner' migrants. Every other bird seemed to be a Pied Fly., those that weren't often turned out to be Spotted Flycatchers or, less often, (Common) Redstart. , both now depressingly scarce migrants in SE England. This wasn't a one-off but was a regular feature during my visit and I'm sure a systematic survey at several sites would have turned up many dozens of birds, perhaps a100 or more in some instances. This isn't a peculiarly autumnal phenomenon but happens in spring too. Urban parks (notably Parque Princessa Sofía in La Linea), coastal strips of woodland (Tarifa beach) and isolated woods surrounded by pastures and saltmarsh (La Agaida, Bonanza) often harbour more migrant flycatchers, Redstarts and warblers than you might expect.

However, this post isn't about a coastal site or an isolated patch of flycatcher-friendly woodland but a small arid site surrounded by poor cistus scrub not too far from the centre of the province near Medina de Sidonia, El Berrueco. So what has this site got going for it? The optimistically named Rio Iro does provide a narrow thread of better vegetation but after a long hot dry spring and summer (as was the case in 2021) is reduced to a series of disconnected puddles. However, what it does have is an old quarry in the middle of which is an overflowing water trough that feeds several larger puddles nearby. Looking at noticeboards informing visitors about this quarry it seems this trough has been leaking for several years! Here I had good views of Common Redstart, Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, Goldfinches, Serins, Linnets and Ortolan Bunting. Other observers here have seen Blue and Common Rock-thrushes, Cirl Bunting and various warblers here. A more patient observer here armed with a decent camera and lens would be in a good position to take some decent photos of the birds.


I was delighted to see the Ortolans as, embarrassingly, it was a species I hadn't seen in Cadiz Province. They're a declining and uncommon breeding bird in Spain being restricted, apart from an outpost in the Sierra Nevada, to the northern half of the country. They're regular but rather scarce migrants in the province so seeing one is a bit of a lottery. I had three Ortolans at El Berrueco but others reported 4, 5 or even a dozen birds at this site. This seems to have been the only site they were regularly reported in the area on eBird with only two isolated reports elsewhere during the autumn (both of single birds) from Vejer and La Zarga (obviously more were seen by observers not using eBird but the paucity of reports on this increasingly well-used app is a fair indication of the species' status). In fact, it was through these eBird reports (cleverly discovered by my guests Ben & AJ) that I became aware of the site and although I do randomly explore tracks leading off into the campo, I doubt that I would have found it otherwise. This is where eBird can be extraordinarily helpful (although it seems in this instance some of the references took us to the centre of the village rather than the site itself, the photos on eBird certainly helped to confirm once there that we were in the right place).

The two morals of this post are a) remember to check eBird for details of target birds and b) in drought conditions even the most unpromising sites can attract birds if there's a good source of water.
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I've now added two trip reports to my blog about birding in Cadiz. Both are rather too long to post directly here and, besides, I only have permission from the authors to use their accounts on my blog. The first concerns a trip of just over a week largely in Cadiz Province but also venturing into nearby provinces in early October 3/10 - 12/10/2022 (see Trip Report - A Birding Trip to Andalusia). The second is a one day guided trip taken from Cadiz city when stopping there on a cruise (see https://birdingcadizprovince.weebly.com/cadiz-birding-blog/birding-bonanza-nearby-cadiz-28102022). Both should prove useful for anyone planning a visit to the area.

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