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A Report from

South Western Spain,

John Jennings


This report covers the period from 21st to 28th April 2002 inc. The area covered was the South Western area of Spain from our base, the Hotel Cortijo Blanco nr San Pedro, in the Costa del Sol of Spain.  This was not a touristy holiday but a total birding holiday with my new partner in life, Ros.  In one week we covered 2,102 km and visited areas as far away as Sierra Nevada and also the Coto Donana (which meant us staying for one night in the delightful sand road village of El Rocio).  Over the period of that week we saw some incredible scenery coupled with some equally fantastic birds, of which we listed 130 species over the holiday. The weather was equally incredible as we didn't see a cloud for the whole week and even as high up as over 8,000 feet (on Sierra Nevada) it was hot. We had read 4 trip reports from contributors to this site and they helped enormously plus I had purchased, about three years ago from Slimbridge, Laurence Rose' where to watch birds in Spain and Portugal.  In my opinion an excellent buy.  We found a few sites of our own and hope that they might help a few of you that wish to visit this area of Spain.

Species that were seen constantly were Griffon Vultures, Serin, House Sparrow, Spotless Starling, Pallid and Common Swift, Swallow, Goldfinch, Stonechat, Yellow-legged Gull and in certain areas Crested Lark, Coal Tit, Corn Bunting, White Stork, Black Kite, and European Bee-eaters. We also heard Nightingale and Cettis Warbler on every day. We never got to see a Cetti's but eventually we got to grips with a Nightingale on the Coto Donana.

I had targeted only one bird for the holiday (2 if I had known that I was going to go to the Coto Donana before we left Birmingham) I ended up getting the bird I wanted (Alpine Accentor), plus the bird in the Coto Donana, (Spanish Imperial Eagle) plus an unexpected bird (White Headed Duck (Laguna Dulce). That made it three Lifers for the trip.

April 21st. Birmingham Airport to Malaga, and on to our Hotel. 

First birds seen at Malaga airport were House Martin, Common and Pallid Swifts, Spotless Starlings and House Sparrow. On the way to our hotel we added Collared Dove (a species we very rarely saw over the week) and Greenfinch.

Hotel Cortijo Blanco Garden:

Kestrel, Sardinian Warbler and Whitethroat, the latter being the only sighting over the week.

River Guadaiza, nr our Hotel: This was almost dry but contained a little water whist we were there. Goldfinch, Spotless Starling, pair of Hoopoe, Blackbird, White Wagtail, L.R.Plover. pair of Turtle Doves, Great Tit and many over flying Yellow-legged Gulls.

End of first day Total - 18 species.

April 22nd.

We took the advice to visit Ronda today and to extend that trip to take in the Laguna Dulce (nr Campillo, highly recommended) and the Laguna de Fuente de Piedra not far away.  Tip. If you visit the latter I would recommend a morning visit as the sun is right in your eyes in the afternoon and you miss most of the far off birds.

We started our day at the river where we added Swallow and Serin.

On A367 at km 151 we saw our first Yellow wagtails.

On A367 at km 141 we came across a wonderful sight as 10 Griffon Vultures sailed and soared above our heads. This was the first of many encounters with this magnificent bird of prey. To their right were a couple of Lesser Kestrels (the only ones seen this holiday).

Ronda was impressive, as many other people have stated, with the views from the town but I found it a bit oppressive with the amount of traffic and the almost impossible parking situation. It is a very busy town, or it was when we were there, and we got out of there quite quickly.  Birds we encountered here were, 6 Chough, free flying on our approach to the town, Corn Bunting, and Crag Martin. In the town we tried to pick up signs for Campillo (impossible) or El Burgo.  El Burgo road was found but the signs soon disappeared and we found ourselves going the wrong way down a one-way street. We backtracked but still we couldn't pick up the signs for El Burgo so I decided to go back the way we came and pick up the A367 we had arrived on. I'm glad we did as just after we got back on the A367 we past a little track that went down to a small stream. As we arrived we disturbed the only White Stork that we saw in this side of Spain, (we were to see plenty from Gibraltar and beyond later in the week). We decided to stop for a picnic here and whilst there we added Stonechat, Whinchat, Moorhen and 6 Sand Martins flying around the road bridge, (the only encounter with this species on the holiday).

A367 From Ronda to Campillo

From Ronda to a point where we came across a bridge that was marked as the Tajo del Molin we saw Griffon Vulture on a few occasions but at one point, where the road makes a very slow right hand bend we stopped as an obvious raptor was seen in the distance.  It turned out to be a Common Buzzard.  As we watched this bird 2 Alpine Swifts flew over our head and a Woodchat Shrike landed on a wire about 50 feet away from us.

A367. Tajo del Molin.

This turned out to be a real find. On the right hand side of the road, about 100 feet down is a farmhouse but on the left hand side, approx about 200 yards away is a gorge. Here we encountered at least 5 Black Wheatear, 1 Blue Rock Thrush and a Kingfisher (all 3 were the only time we saw these species on the holiday. There were also Hoopoe, Crag Martin, Griffon Vulture, Chough, Crested Lark and many other birds to be seen here.  Well worth finding this place if you are on this road to Campillo.

Laguna Dulce. Nr Campillo.

This is a gem of a place and well worth adding to any itinery of this area.  In fact I wish we had made a day of this area as there are quite a few Laguna's dotted around close by which we didn't visit due to not enough hours in a day.  I would suggest making a day of this area close to Campillo and this would allow you to seek out these lakes. Laguna Dulce has an excellent hide that gives superb views over the water. 

Anyway birds seen here were:- Gull-billed Tern. Well over a 100 seen here. Red-crested Pochard, (probably more than 10 but the heat haze meant we couldn't really see well enough at a distance to pick out a lot of the distant birds). Coot (hundreds), Greater Flamingo, (over 500 here). Black-necked Grebe, possibly over 20 here, Great-crested Grebe in abundance, a couple of Purple Gallinule, Moorhen, Yellow-legged Gull, Black-headed Gull, Little Grebe. We had a few Alpine Swift flying around us whilst quartering the reeds was a magnificent Marsh Harrier quickly followed by an equally magnificent male Hen Harrier. It's silver grey and black wings seem to shine in the brilliant sunshine.  Whilst watching the Hen Harrier I came across a couple of ducks that made my jaw drop.  It was a bird I wasn't expecting to see.  I have tried in parts of Spain and Portugal before on recognised sites without getting to grips with it. It was a White-headed Duck and my first Lifer of the trip.

Laguna de Fuente de Piedra.

There is a visitor's centre here but it was closed whilst we were there. This is a place you should visit in the morning.  We got there late afternoon and the sun was in our eyes, which stopped us looking at quite a lot of water due to the glare. Still it is a place worth visiting as there were thousands of Greater Flamingo here. Also seen here were over a hundred Gull-billed Terns plus new species added to our list were Black-winged Stilt (100's) Little Stint (at least two) Kentish Plover (approx 10 that we could see on the waters edge) Redshank and Ringed Plover. On the way back we went via Sierra de Yeguas.  As you pass the Laguna to your left you come across an obvious lay by (an old road closed off) where you can view the lake at a different angle.  We didn't add any more species here due to the distance of the birds being lost in the heat haze but it had obvious potential for viewing birds that possibly couldn't be seen from the visitors centre area.  Just passed here we came across a field full of Gull-billed Terns. There must have been at least 200 of them. The journey home didn't produce anything we hadn't seen already but we did see a few more Griffon Vultures again.

At the end of day two our species count had increased to 55

April 23rd

Trip to the Sierra Nevada.

This was a day of not high species sightings but what were seen were quality as well as some of the most stunning scenery I have ever seen.  Sierra Nevada was still covered in Snow and there were skiers and snowboarders out in force here.  The road from the café area to Pico de Veleta was closed due to snow but even here; at over 8,500 feet it was hot.  It seemed unreal that you could walk in thick snow whilst being so hot that you had to walk with shorts and a sleeveless shirt on.  The road we travelled on is the highest road in Europe according to Laurence Rose' Where to watch birds in Spain and Portugal.

We started out very early and didn't stop until we reached km 28 on the final road up the Sierra Nevada towards Solynieve.

Km 28

There is a place where you can park safely off the road. It is a small wooded area and initially I stopped to relieve myself.  I was thankful that I did as just in front of me was a beautiful Subalpine Warbler (the only one seen on the holiday, although Ros reckons she saw one in a wooded area we visited later in the week at Istans) to the right of me and a Bonelli's Warbler (one of only two seen on the holiday) to the left of me. The other birds seen were Magpie and quite a few Coal Tit.

Outskirts of Solynieve.

Black Redstarts (at least 5) as well as a few Choughs flying around.

Parador Hotel (directly above the ski resort of Solynieve)

There is a large concrete platform here that sticks out from the mountainside and overlooks Solynieve.  We met two Scottish birders here and they had been watching two Alpine Accentors only moments before our arrival but try as we did we couldn't locate them.  I was gutted, as this is a bird I have long wanted on my list.  As a bonus we did have up to 20 Rock Sparrow flying over our heads as well as quite a few Crag Martin plus alone Wheatear.  A Black Redstart landed on a post only 5 feet away from me.  Just as I was about to take, what would have been a cracking photo of it, it flew off. Typical!

Above Café area on Ski slope.

There is a building here with a green roof on it.  It had a sheer drop to the side of it with a metal railing between you and a very severe drop but what views.  Whilst here I was watching a cracking Black Redstart when Ros shouted "what are those two birds that have just landed over there".  I could have kissed her, in fact I did.  I put my scope up on them and a stunning pair of Alpine Accentors filled my view.  What superb looking birds these are amongst the snow.  At last I had achieved a major target bird of mine.  They were the only ones seen this holiday as well.

After a little while we left to go home but about 1km down from the café we came across a tatty looking Rock Bunting. Further down, at km 31 we came across a couple of Rock Doves flying over the road.

Back down this road, near the bottom, you begin to see a large Reservoir.  You have to take a road to your right just before you rejoin the main road to Grenada.  Follow the signs for Guejja-sierra.  We didn't see too much here but it has potential as this reservoir has just been built. But what scenery with the snow clad peaks as backdrop to a beautiful blue water. A few photos were taken here. We heard quite a few European Bee-eaters here but we couldn't find them. Birds added to our list here were, Blackcap and Fan-tailed Warbler. A few Swallow were flying around as well.

At the end of day two our species count had increased to 67

April 24th

River Guadaiza, nr our Hotel.

A quick walk before we departed to go to Istan resulted in only one new bird and that was a pair of Mallard

Istan.  This is reached via a small road out of Porto Banus, nr Marbella.  Not much driving today but again, what stunning scenery. Istan is a lovely town with a small market.  We purchased a few items of clothing here and sucked on a couple of well earned Magnum ice creams. Beyond Istan you come to an area to the left of a big grey wall.  It has a sign on it for, I think, forest walks.  This is well worth a visit for typical woodland birds (including a few Short-toed Treecreeper). The walk, for the most part, is along a well made stone path and is only about 400 yards long but along there we saw a pair of Pied Flycatchers (the only ones seen on the holiday) Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Firecrest and Goldcrest, Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Blackcap, Greenfinch, Bonellie's Warbler, Stonechat, Spotless Starling, Short-toed Treecreeper (5 seen by us) as well as all the usual Hirrundines plus our first sighting of the holiday of a magnificent Short-toed Eagle as it flew right over our heads. It was here that Ros saw, what she thought was a Subalpine Warbler.  Her description certainly fitted the bird.

10 kmabove Istan.

We had stopped under some trees for shade when we heard the bubbling sound of the Bee-eater. At first we couldn't find them but Ros eventually locked onto them before me and there were about 40 of them seemingly riding the thermals high above our head.  Ros had never seen them before and it was a shame because they were so high that you couldn't see their beautiful colours but we were to see plenty of these birds at close quarters over this holiday. Not many miles done today but what stunning scenery.

We got back to our hotel early evening and after having our meal decided to have a walk just before dusk along the river near to us. We walked down to the beach and back through the houses to our hotel. Along the route we encountered our first Sparrowhawk then our 2nd Woodchat Shrike. All the usual birds were seen until just before our hotel when a bird dropped onto a branch of a palm tree.  The bird in question was a total shock to me as it was in the wrong location, habitat etc. It was a Crested Tit.  What on earth was a Crested Tit doing on the edge of a beach on a palm tree? Still I wasn't complaining but I had expected to see one in the woods of the mountains not here by the beach.  This turned out to be the only one seen on the holiday.

Not too many birds added but the species count had now risen to 80

Estopona to Algatocin, via Los Reales and Jubrique, returning via Gucin and Casares

This is a must do route as it is visually stunning as well as some crippling views of raptors so close you could almost touch them.

On the way up we came across a few Yellow Wagtails but eventually you reach a junction for Jubrique and Los Reales.  You will go via Jubrique but before you do go to Los Reales. It is a dead end road but it is well worth going there.  It is only a couple of miles up a very twisty road.  Before you do explore just behind the stone monument, with a map of the area done in tiles, and look down the slope of the mountainside.  We found two stunning Rock Buntings there.  On the road up to Los Reales we came across an area alive with Coal Tits as well as a few Rock Bunting plus a couple of over flying Griffons again.

Carry on until you reach the Augustin L refuge.  Here is an obvious viewpoint here just before the refuge. Stop here.  I hope you are as well rewarded as us.  We had crippling views of a Bonelli's Eagle for over 30 minutes and at one point it stayed by us as close as about 50 feet.  Even better views were had of a Griffon as it glided past us at a range of only 20 feet. A couple of Raven flew around us and about 40 Bee-eaters seem to be riding the thermals above our head. A Sparrowhawk joined in the fun then a surprise bird made an appearance. We were about 4,000 feet up and a Hen Harrier was very unexpected there.

For a good photo shoot drive a further 500 yards to the end of the road, get out and walk half a mile along the track in front of you and you will come to another viewpoint.  This one overlooks the rock of Gibraltar as well as Morocco.  Hopefully you won't have the heat haze we had which covered most of the rock and the mountains of Morocco in a mist.

Return along the road to the stone monument junction and take the Jubrique road. At one point a Raven flew over us and then we came to a point where a small stream seemed to go under the road.  A Nightingale could be heard and that is why we stopped.  Many times we did this but never saw one until the end of the holiday.  Here we saw our first Robin plus Blackcap, Sardinian Warbler as well as a couple of over flying Griffons. As we carried on we saw our only Jay of the holiday just before Jubrique.  Just past Jubrique you come across a bridge that spans the river Genal. We parked just past the bridge and went down the bank to the waters edge.  It was a gorgeous spot and we encountered three varieties of wagtail here. Yellow, White and our 1st Grey wagtail as well as our 2nd Robin.  We also became entranced watching small fish trying to jump up a small waterfall, just like Salmon. None seemed to make it as they appeared to be swept back into the main current.

Algotocin on A369

Two Ravens were displaying over our heads as well as a couple of over flying Griffons.

Gaucin, on road to Casares, the A377.

Not far out of the town the road begins to drop.  Here we had 4 different raptors over our heads. 1st to show was a surprise Booted Eagle. It was only about 100 feet over our heads and circling for at least 5 minutes before drifting off into the distance. Whilst we watched this bird a Buzzard came over followed by our 2nd Short-toed Eagle of the holiday. Yet again another Griffon joined the party.  All 4 were above us at one time.  What a sight. Further down the road, at the bottom of the valley, you go over the river Genal again at km21.  This time the river is wider than when we previously crossed it near to Jubrique. In front of you, the way you were driving, is an obvious large rock, about 4 miles away.  Over the river was a party of Bee-eaters that gave us our closest views of the holiday so far. They dropped onto some wires and displayed their superb colours to great effect. Over the river drifted, 3 different Short-toed Eagles as well as at least 6 Griffons and a couple of Rock Doves. I turned my scope onto the large rock and above it was at least 10 Griffons sailing around the edge of it.  We decided to drive closer to it and at km 17 we were alongside it, albeit possibly about a mile away to the side of it.  There were Griffons all over the place but surprisingly no other raptors only a couple of Ravens.  We drove further along the road and turned left into the road for Casares. Approaching this delightful village I looked at what at first I thought was a rock on top of a larger bolder, about 100 feet above us.  It didn't look right so I stopped, got out of the car and found myself looking at a Griffon Vulture.  I have an extension to my camera that allows me to take photos through my Kowa 823 and took 3 shots of the bird.  I still have to finish off this film but if they develop okay hopefully I will have a shot that I will treasure


That was the end of a great days birding and I think that we only did about 60 to 70 miles that day.

Again not too many birds added but the species count had now risen to 86

April 26th

Today we decided to do something ambitious.  I had been to the Coto Donana before but Ros had never even been abroad before and I thought that she would appreciate the beauty of the place.  We had decided to explore around Tarifa anyway so it was decided to carry on to Donana and try to find a place to stay at El Rocio.  We set out and the 1st bird of note was a Sparrowhawk as we past Algeciras.

Tarifa raptor viewpoint.

My first impression was of the amount of wind turbines sited all over the place. There seemed to hundreds of them all over the place.  It looked a mess and I wondered just what we would see there.  It was a total let down.  We saw one distant, unidentified, raptor and that was all.  I did add Linnet to my list and there seemed to be Stonechat's in abundance there as well as quite a few Sardinian Warblers in the bushes. Goldfinch were the only other birds seen so we left, bitterly disappointed.  I must admit to have expected more of the place.  We did get close up views of Morocco but even this view was hindered by low-lying thick mist.

Tarifa Beach area

I first went into Tarifa to purchase a Costa del Luz map as mine ended at Tarifa and I needed a map to cover Donana.  We quickly found the road to the sports stadium and as we approached we past a field of cows with dozens of Cattle Egrets doing what Cattle Egrets do best. Shadowing every movement the cattle were doing. We parked our car in the car park behind the stadium.  There is an area of pools on the beach that seemed to contain hundreds of waders.

I was looking at well over a hundred Dunlin, plus dozens of Kentish Plovers, Sanderling, a few Ringed Plover and Crested Lark as well as a couple of Curlew Sandpipers, Redshank, and Little Stint. There were dozens of Gull-billed Tern on the sea and fishing in the margins were quite a few Black Terns, which surprised us.  Lesser blackbacked gulls were on the beach as well as Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls.  Above us flew over 20 White Storks and from here on we were to see Storks everywhere.

Scoping through some new arrivals one bird stood out. The first thing was that it was obviously not a Ringed or Little ringed or even a Kentish plover but it was a plover. It had an orangey/buffy colouration that seemed to extend to at least a third of the way down the chest, starting from a point on the chest almost directly below the eye. It had a very whitish area extending from the base of the bill to a point where the chest colouration started in an almost straight line across the chest. I had never seen a plover like this before. The legs were very black and the bill seemed thicker than the Kentish plovers it was with. It appeared to be taller than the Kentish as well. I watched it for a few minutes through a heat haze as the day was very hot and sunny. After studying for quite a few minutes I looked at my field guide (Collins pocket guide by Herman Heinzel, Richard Fitter & John Parslow) and looking at the bird and then my field guide again. My impression was that it was one of the Sand plovers but as I had never seen one before I couldn't be certain. It didn't fit exactly the way either of the plovers looked in the guide.

I was worried that if I was to try to get even closer then I would flush the bird as it became very open not too far from where I was standing.

Now I am not the most experienced birder around but even I could see that this bird was something different. I looked about to see if there were any other birders and spotted a couple that had just arrived. I called them over but to my horror, just as they were approaching me, a woman, with two dogs walked right through the birds sending them all skywards. I told them what I had seen but trying to find this bird again proved fruitless. I left them about thirty minutes later thinking that possibly a major bird had escaped me. I would have stayed longer but the call of two days on the Coto Donana was a big pull for both of us.

This all happened between 11am and noon. About 6 hours later we reached, albeit slowly, El Rocio for our two day stint on the Coto Donana. At the visitors centre we met an RSPB man and I told him of my sighting but the field guides he was using was similar to mine and both the Sand plovers looked different to the bird Ros & I had seen so in the end I put it down to a bird that would remain a mystery.

That would have stayed that way until Sunday 12th May when both Ros and I chased after the Rimac Lesser Sand Plover. We left Birmingham at 08:30 and arrived at Rimac at 11:10 and 20 minutes later I was looking at a bird that I swear I had been looking at at Tarifa just over two weeks before. I couldn't see any difference. Now what are the chances of two birds looking very similar visiting both Tarifa and Rimac within two weeks of each other? I am now left in a quandary. I am desperately trying to locate the RSPB man so that at least I can substantiate the fact that I had reported seeing, what I had originally thought was one of the Sand Plovers, on the same day that I had seen it.

Nr Fascinas on A340 to Cadiz.

I was dying for a pee and we approached the 2nd junction for Fascinas. You turn right here and immediately left there is a wide, white, dirt track that went into a grassland area.  It looked promising and the book I have read mentioned the possibility of Great Bustard in this vicinity.  After finding the appropriate relieving post I decided to investigate this track further. It was a wise decision. First bird seen was a Short-toed Eagle followed by 6 Griffons. I then spied a Griffon on the floor in the field in front of us.  Unfortunately the heat haze was immense today so a photo was out of the question but it was an impressive sight. As we went further we came across a small stream that went under the road. At this point our 1st Little Egret flew into a ditch followed by another.  A Lark was found on a post and I studied it. It had a large head and beak and I had my suspicions but I needed to see it's under wing before I could verify it.  It wasn't co-operating and I had to wait for ages before it lifted a wing, exposing the black underwing of a Calandra Lark (the only ones seen this holiday).  Almost as soon as I had worked out what it was it was joined by at least another 10 flying around it.  These were easy to identify as all that was needed to ID them was on show. Further along the track and 10 Storks flew over our head and another 4 were on nests on a distant farmhouse. Fan tailed Warblers seemed to be zipping from all points as well as plenty of Yellow Wagtails scurrying across the fields. A Lark drifted onto a fence post.  It was a small bird and it didn't take me long to work out that it was a Short-toed Lark. That turn off the road was fortuitous as it found us some nice birds. It was time to carry on and further along the N340 we came across a Marsh Harrier quartering some fields.

Jnct of N340 and Zarzuela to Almarchal Rd.

We could see a couple of harriers to our left but they were too far away to make out so we turned left up this road and soon we were looking at a gorgeous pair of Montague Harriers. They quickly disappeared over the fields. Back onto the N340, at a place called Medina Sodinia, we came across the only Jackdaws and Crows of the holiday all around a straight-sided high rock at the side of the road.

We carried on and soon we were on the A4 for Seville. At KM 89 we came across the first of many Black Kite we were to see.

We reached El Rocio at 6.30pm. I made my way to the visitors centre and bumped into an RSPB chap that was helping out there.  He showed me a superb map of the Coto Donana and explained that we could purchase it at the Acebuch Reserve.  We had an hour before Acebuch Reserve closed and a quick look around the wetland in front of us found many Black Kite, at least 50 Spoonbill, over a hundred Whiskered Tern quite a few Black Tern, hundreds of Black-winged Stilt as well as hundreds of Flamingo. Also found were plenty of Grey Heron, Greylag Geese, Cormorant, Shelduck and Shoveller. Leaving for the Acebuch reserve we drove over the bridge where the La Rocina reserve starts.  Red Rumped Swallows breed under this bridge and we stopped to find them.  Sure enough about 6 of them were flying around.  From this point you can see part of the La Rocina reserve and we found a Night Heron and a Purple Heron. We carried on to Acebuch and purchased the map for 9 Euros, about £6.

Back to El Rocio and we found a place to stay. The Christina pension.  It cost us 30 Euros for the night, approx £20, for the two of us. We purchased an evening meal there but it wasn't all that nice and it was expensive, and cold.  I wouldn't recommend it too highly but if you want a place to stay without purchasing their food it would be ideal.

The species count had now shot up to 110

April 27th

El Rocio

If you have never been here, it's a delightful place. Just like a spaghetti western town with sand roads and horse tethering posts all over the place.  There are plenty of beautiful horses trotting around the village mounted by the most proficient horseman I have ever seen. A stunning large white church dominates this village.

We got up early and immediately scoped the water in front of El Rocio.

Birds found, different from the previous day, were Avocet, Red-crested Pochard, Little Egret, White Stork as well as a Cuckoo we could hear in the distance, which we never found.

Acebuch reserve.

A Wood Pigeon was the first bird seen but as we pulled onto the reserve a stunning Bee-eater dropped onto a stop sign only 5 feet from us. Now Ros could take in the real beauty of the bird but as I reached for my camera it flew of. Pulling into the reserve car park we were confronted with dozens of Azure-winged Magpies. These are lovely birds and their colours really stand out in this bright sunlight. We decided to do only the first three hides, as I wanted to drive through the Donana to the Jose Antonio Valverdes reserve. In front of the first hide were a few Purple Heron, a couple of Night Heron and a couple of Purple Gallinule, which had had at least a couple of chicks. The next hide didn't produce anything different but halfway between the 2nd and 3rd hide I, at last, came to grips with a singing Nightingale. It took a while to find it but Ros was the first to see it and put me onto it. Thanks Ros, again!!!  The third hide was productive in as much as it threw up a passing Red Kite, the only one seen on this holiday, a couple of Sedge Warblers plus there was a reeling Savi's warbler in front of us that I never found.  Just then, amongst the zipping of many Fan tails, the beautiful fluting sound of a Golden Oriole drifted over the reserve and immediately I rushed out just in time for both Ros and I to see it take of from a tree by the hide.

La Rocina Palace

This is a palace that is in the middle of a wood that can be reached via the main gate into the La Rocina reserve. Birds seen along this track were close ups of dozens of Bee-eaters, a Woodchat Shrike, a fly over of two magnificent Booted Eagles, many Black Kite plus a surprising Tree Sparrow. The palace itself is a magnificent white building set in the middle of a wood.  Well worth a visit.

Vilamanrique road from El Rocio. (1st river bridge)

Quite productive here producing a pair of Common Sandpipers, Red rumped Swallow, many Black Kite and Bee-eaters but best of all were a pair of Larks. One on a wire and one on a board.  There were two other birders with us and they were watching them too.  At first I couldn't work them out until they started singing to each other and then it was quite easy to ID them. The prrrit sound, shown in my field guide, was quite evident and a pair of Lesser short toed Larks soon found their way onto my list.  We found two more as we worked our way to the J.A.Valverde reserve.  The two birders there tagged on behind me as I knew the way to get there and they didn't.

On the way to the J.A.Valverdes reserve.

There is no way that you can pinpoint anywhere on this route as it is virtually all dirt track for about 25 miles, most of it straight and featureless. On the way we did some good birds including a dozen Collared Pratincoles, a couple more L.S.T Larks, a couple of Hoopes, a pair of Monatague's, a pair of Marsh Harriers, a Raven, many Storks and Black Kites, quite a few Black Tern and Whiskered Tern and at one point we passed a field with the sound of "wet my lips" ringing out.  We never did see a Quail but then again that is not too surprising.

Jose Antonio Valverdis reserve.

We had been told of a Heronry on the right hand side of the building but didn't expect so many birds to be there.  Dozens of Glossy Ibis, Night Heron, Purple Heron, Cattle Egret, Grey Heron and Little Egret were in the reeds. Out on the reserve was one of the birds I had hoped to see.  It wasn't a lifer but Marbled Teal is still a useful addition to any yearly lists. As I watched a pair of Purple Gallinule a little Warbler dropped into a bush in front of the window. It was a Melodious Warbler but didn't stay around long enough for me to take a photo of it. Flying around the reserve were Whiskered and Sandwich Terns plus Black Kite. A Marsh Harrier flew over the building. We walked outside to view from the screens.  I was hoping to see a Squacco Heron and Ros said that something similar to my description had just dropped into the reeds in front of us. Whatever it was never re-appeared. I found a pair of Gadwall tight against one of the small islands as I searched elsewhere for any other type of Heron but my search was fruitless.  After a while it was time to think about the long drive back to San Pedro.  I had worked out a route that was shorter than the way we had come but even so I reckoned on at least a possible 4 hour journey.  It was now 17:15.  I decided to drive for a couple of miles along the raised tracks towards El Rocio, which can't be reached this way unless you have the right type of transport, which we hadn't.  The only different bird being added was a couple of Lapwing.  It was now 17:50 and my journey back was through the back roads of the reserve to Villafranco Del Guadalquivir and on to the main roads of Seville.  This proved to very fortuitous as I was about to find the bird of the holiday.  We were approaching an area on the map called Vuelta de la Arena.  There is a large building here in the middle of nowhere where it looks like too large drains meet.  Ros, once again bless her, pointed out that a Black Kite was being harried by two larger birds.  I turned my bins onto them and the first thing I noticed where the white shoulder markings with white edges on the front of the wings. I had found not one but two Spanish Imperial Eagles, a lifer for me.  That means I have seen both Imperial Eagles now as I encountered an Imperial Eagle a few years ago in Kefalonia. This is in one of my other trip reports on this site.

Our way home took us through some absolutely stunning scenery as I had plotted my route back via Seville, down the A4 then onto the N IV and picking up the signs for Villamartin, Algodonales (where we saw a Peregrine in one of those screaming plunge dives). This was the only Peregrine we saw. We then went through Ronda and onto San Pedro.

In the end the species count was 130

April 28th saw us chill out and just drive around and visited Refugio del Juanar (which was very quiet) through Coin and on through Mijas before deciding to stop of at a beach resort called Los Alamos. As soon as we arrived there we found ourselves caught up in a fight with about ten youths beating up an old man of about 70 before disappearing like the cowards they are.  It really brought home why I hate holiday resorts and would much rather be out in the country.  What do you say?


Whatever the outcome I am now convinced of what I saw at Tarifa. What a way to put my mind at rest but what are the odds of that happening to anyone?

I never thought that I would ever hear, or see, anything about that bird again that is why I didn't really consider it until seeing the RIMAC bird. Over the period of the week I logged 130 different species of birds. I am quite happy to make Lesser Sand plover an addition to that list bringing the total to 131.


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