Birding Cadiz province 25 April – 2 May 2012
Here’s a report and some pictures of our recent birding trip to Southern most part of Spain. Participants were, Simon Hugheston Roberts and Eddie Urbanski and me, Rhys Jones. Sadly we were a man down from our trip last year to Cyprus but we soldiered on .We were based in Tarifa and birded mostly in Cadiz province though occasionally venturing into Malaga and Seville provinces. – the pics are at the end
We Flew from Liverpool with Easyjet and stayed at an amazing Cottage just outside Tarifa. The cottage, Casa Alferero, is in a little wooded valley on the coastal slope about 30 m above the sea and it overlooks the narrowest part of the Straits of Gibraltar. As I had hoped when booking, the garden and surrounds proved to be a migrant trap with Orphean Warbler, Golden Oriole, Turtle doves, necked nightjar and various raptors seen as well as nightingales singing all night. The house was only1 km from one of the recognised raptor watching stations – “Trafico” although we were too busy to do any proper raptor watching. The seawatching from the garden was superb with passing Pomarine skuas, shearwaters and even puffins seen. We also saw cetaceans form the garden including many Pilot Whales and Striped Dolphin amongst other unidentified cetaceans.
The house was just off the coastal path and a 15 minute walk to the cool bars, restaurants and shops of Tarifa. In short the location was perfect and, being one of the closest houses in Spain to Morocco and we could even see people in Morocco from the garden with scopes!
More details about it here:
We hired a car through Economy car hire and were upgraded to a VW Touran for £145 for a week inc all insurances. A great car which wafted us over a zillion potholes in comfort judging by the amount of sleep one of our groups enjoyed on the back seat between sites!
This area of Spain has an amazing diversity of habitats and landscapes within a relatively small area and we spent much of our time travelling around, birding as many different sites as we could. Hence the species List – 181 in total which exceeded our expectations by quite a bit! We saw around a hundred species on most days.
I’d visited the area before and had done a lot of preparation beforehand – putting many of the sites we wanted to visit into the sat - navy using books and google maps.
We used the following books and resources
Where to Watch Birds in Southern and Western Spain: Andalucía, Extremadura and Gibraltar Andrew Paterson and Ernest Garcia (2008) - very useful with many sites including adjoining Malaga and Seville Provinces. Also lots of background detail and the status of all birds in the area.
Finding Birds in Andalucía by David Gosney (Aug 2009) - less sites covered but the main ones included and in great detail so we found it very useful.
A Birdwatching Guide to Southern Spain by Malcolm Palmer and John Busby (Apr 1997). Getting on and bit and so some parts out of date, however it has a really useful tick list in the back.
Birding by John Cantelo. 2012-05-14
A brilliant site guide with an almost overwhelming number of sites and great
detail for each site. Also lots of background info and a wealth of enthusiasm!
Available directly as a PDF from John Cantelo via his very informative website
and blog http://birdingcadizprovince.weebly.com/index.htmI
I loaded it
on to the kindle which worked quite well if you read it in landscape rather
that portrait – It saved a lot of printing
Other good websites studied beforehand included:
mind the Finnsticks read the blog
lots of nice
pics and recent sightings
Good for daily
and historic tallies of raptors seen crossing the straits
blog – see first reference above.
Here’s a brief itinerary of the sites we visited
Rio Guadalhorce, Sierra Crestillina, Rio Genal, Tarifa
Playa de los Lances – Santuario de la Luz, Facinas, La Janda inner road, Benalup, Vejer de la Frontera, Bolonia Archaeological site, Sierra del Retin.
Palmones Estuary, La Montero del Torero (Devils Eye), Ojen Valley, La Janda canal road, Benalup, Trafalgar, Atlanterra.
Sanlucar de Barrameda, Bonanza Saltpans, Algaida Pinewoods, Laguna de Tarelo, Salinas de Monte Algaida
Laguna de Medina, Alcala de los Grazules to Jimena de la Frontera, Pinar del Rey
Laguna de Mejorales, Brazo del Este, Laguna Medina
Llanos de Libar, Rio Genal, Sierra Crestillina
I won’t describe all the sites in detail as they are amply covered in the publications above, and details are available on the web.
However some sites, as well as the cottage of course, really left an impression:
Brazo del Este with its vast flat landscapes and epic skies (at least to my Snowdonian eye) really impressed us. This is the eastern end of the Coto Danana – on the eastern Bank of Guadalquivir. It was a long drive to get there but the sky was full of raptors and flocks of glossy ibis and the wetlands heaved with waders and the reeds held reeling Savi’s and Great Reed warblers.
Salinas de Bonanza where the wader numbers was mind boggling. Most wader species were present in a variety of plumages.
Algaida pinewoods. We arrived as a thunderstorm cleared and the hot sun came out. There is a breeding colony of Black Kites here and their shadows were filtered down to the dappled forest floor as they cruised above the canopy giving their eerie calls – the effect was quite magical.
We all agreed that the site which impressed the most was Llanos de Libar. It’s an upland valley which begins at Montejaque – a small village about 8Km west of Ronda. It’s drivable for about 9km along a rough track. At its eastern end a rocky field really er… rocked : ) – 3 Wheatear species, Blue and Rufous-tailed Rock thrushes, Rock Bunting, Rock Sparrows, Iberian Grey Shrike, and Black redstarts hopped about while Chough and Bonelli’s eagle cruised the cliffs above. The landscape becomes gentler at its western end with open oak woodland (dehesa?) and noisy packs of the famous brown “iberico ham” pigs. Here we had woodlarks, Mistle Thrushes and breeding Subalpine warblers.
John Cantelo describes this site in detail in his notes.
It was great to see so many sites and birds in such a short time, and although a bit full-on we had a great time. We connected with many sought after birds but also missed a few target species, particularly both smaller swifts, but we were probably a tad early for white-rumped and in too much of a rush for Littles!
Next time I think I’d like to take a more relaxed approach and spend more time around the house Raptor and Sea-watching and being more patient waiting for those swifts.
Apart from the birding, the other highlight of the trip was the food. We stopped off every day for coffee, beers and tapas at little roadside ventas in the countryside. The food was delicious and very cheap and varied from octopus salad to quail’s eggs – superb!
Here’s our trip list with a few additional notes. The marks out of seven refer to the number of days out of 7 on which we saw the species.