Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Cadiz province April/May 2012

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.

Cadiz 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
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:

Never mind the Finnsticks read the blog
lots of nice pics and recent sightings

Migres website
Good for daily and historic tallies of raptors seen crossing the straits

Birding the Costa
Andrew Paterson’s blog – see first reference above.


Here’s a brief itinerary of the sites we visited

25 April
Rio Guadalhorce, Sierra Crestillina, Rio Genal, Tarifa

26 April
Playa de los Lances – Santuario de la Luz, Facinas, La Janda inner road, Benalup, Vejer de la Frontera, Bolonia Archaeological site, Sierra del Retin.

27 April
Palmones Estuary, La Montero del Torero (Devils Eye), Ojen Valley, La Janda canal road, Benalup, Trafalgar, Atlanterra.

28 April
Sanlucar de Barrameda, Bonanza Saltpans, Algaida Pinewoods, Laguna de Tarelo, Salinas de Monte Algaida

29 April
Laguna de Medina, Alcala de los Grazules to Jimena de la Frontera, Pinar del Rey

30 April
Laguna de Mejorales, Brazo del Este, Laguna Medina

1 April 
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.

Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis 4/7
Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus 3/7
Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis 2/7
Cory's Shearwater Calonectris diomedea 2/7
 Seen from the garden on 25/4 and 26/4
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus 5/7
Seen from the garden
Gannet Morus bassanus 7/7
Shag Phalcrocorax aristoteles1/7
 A single first year bird seen Just south of cape Trafalgar on 27/4/12. We assumed that this bird was desmarestii form the pale throatand and breast and finer bill. There is a tiny sedentary population on Gibraltar some 70km away (over-sea) Garcia and Paterson describes it as “exceptional elsewhere”!  - should have taken a photo : ( 
Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus
Seen on both visits to Laguna de Medina
Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax 2/7
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis 5/7
Little Egret Egretta garzetta 7/7
Squacco heron Ardeolla ralloides 1/7
Seen in two sites in Brazo del Este
 Great White Egret Ardea alba 2/7
Seen at Bonanza Saltpans and Brazo del Este
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea  6/7
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea 5/7
White Stork Ciconia 6/7
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus 2/7
Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia 5/7
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber 2/7
Rio Guadalhorce and bonanza saltpans
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 1/7
Gadwall Anas strepera 4/7
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos 6/7
Shoveler Anas clypeata 1/7
Pochard Aythea farina 4/7
Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina 3/7
White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala 2/7
Rio Guadalhorce and Laguna de Medina
Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus  2/7
 A single at Palmones estuary and 3 at Llanos de Libar. We were just a few days too early for the big numbers to start moving through. Although if we’d done any proper raptor-watchingI’m sure we’d have seen more.
Black Kite Milvus migrans 6/7
Red Kite Milvus milvus 1/7
A single bird at the Bonanza saltpans
Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus 2/7
A nice adult at Sierra de la Plata and an immature bird at the Ojen Valley
Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus 6/7
Black Vulture Aegypius monachus1/7
An unexpected and very welcome surprise when we came across one sitting in a field in the pouring rain  with a few Griffons  a couple of km south of Benalup on 27/4/2012
Spanish imperial Eagle Aquila adalberti 1/7
One sub-adult seen at the western end of the la Janda “inner road”
Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus 6/7
Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus  3/7
Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus  4/7
Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus  2/7
Common Buzzard Buteo buteo 6/7
Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus 6/7
Bonelli's Eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus 2/7
Sierra Crestellina and Llanos de Libar
Osprey Pandion haliaetus 1/7
One male at the Palmones estuary
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni  4/7
Seen in several towns/villages and a  flock of 20+ seen from Laguna de Medina which we assume were this species
Kestrel Falco tinnunculus 7/7
Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa 6/7
Pheasant Phasianus colchicus 2/7
Moorhen Gallinula chloropus 6/7
Purple Gallinule Porphyrio porphyrio 4/7
Quite easy in most of the wetlands we visited
Coot Fulica atra 5/7
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus  6/7
Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta 2/7
Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus
Casablanca and Brazo del Este
Collared Pratincole Glareola pratincola 3/7
Seen at several sites including over 150 at Marismas de Casablanca
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius 5/7
Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula 5/7
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus 5/7
Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola 4/7
Sanderling Calidris alba 5/7
Little Stint Calidris minuta 1/7
Temminck's Stint Calidris temminckii   1/7
Bonanza saltpans – only  a few but in breeding plumage
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea 3/7
Seen in their  hundreds and in all plumages at Bonanza
Dunlin Calidris alpina  5/7
Ruff Philomachus pugnax 1/7
Snipe Gallinago gallinago 3 /7
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa 2/7
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica 1/7
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 3/7
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythopus 1/7
Redshank Tringa tetanus 5/7
Greenshank Tringa nebularia 4/7
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola 1/7
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos  4/7
Turnstone Arenaria interpres 4/7
Pomarine Skua Stercorarius pomarinus 2/7
Seen from the garden on two days during windier weather. All flying out form the Med into the Atlantic. About 20 adults in all including a couple of nice dark-phase birds
Great Skua Stercorarius skua.  2/7
4 seen, all flying out of the Med as well
Mediterranean Gull Larus melanocephalus 2/7
Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus 2/7
Little Gull  larus minutus 1/7
 A summer plumaged adult at Bonanza
Slender-billed Gull Larus genei 1/7
Plentiful enough at Bonanza, also seen at Sanlucar de Barrameda
Audouin's Gull Larus audouinii 3/7
Rio Guadalhorce, Sanlucar de Barrameda and from the garden!
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 2/7
Yellow-legged Gull Larus cachinnans 7/7
Gull-billed Tern Sterna nilotica 2/7
Seen at Bonanza, Brazo del Este, Laguna de Medina and a flock over some ploughed fields by the motorway somewhere east of Cadiz
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 5/7
Little Tern Sterna albifrons 1/7
Plentiful at Bonanza
Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus 4/7
Several wetland sites including a flock of 50 at Marismas de Casablanca
Black Tern Chlidonias niger 1/7
Brazo del Este
Razorbill Alca torda 1/7
2 from the garden on our first evening
Puffin Fratercula arctica  1/7
4 from the garden on 29/04/12. Probably our least anticipated species!
Rock Dove Columba livia  7/7
Including some quite genuine looking ones at Llanos de Libar
Woodpigeon Columba palumbus 7/7
Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto 5/7
Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur 4/7
Cuckoo Cuculus canorus 4/7
Tawny Owl Strix aluco
One heard at Pinar del Rey
Little Owl Athene noctua 2/7
Bolonia archaeological site and Llanos de Libar
Red-necked Nightjar Caprimulgus ruficollis 1/7
After brief and unsatisfactory flight views in the gloom at Pinar del Rey a bird landed in our headlights as we drove down the track to the house, giving amazing views down of 2 metres!
Common Swift Apus apus 7/7
Pallid Swift Apus pallidus 7/7
Alpine Swift Apus melba 1/7
Only one bird briefly at Llanos del Libar
Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
One at Rio Guadalhorce and another flying through woodland at the Devils Eye
Bee-eater Merops apiaster 7/7
 Seen everywhere!
Hoopoe Upupa epops 6/7
Green Woodpecker Picus viridis sharpei  2/7
Heard but not seen at Sierra de la Plata and Ojen Valley
Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major 4/7
Woodlark  Lullula arborea 1/7
Seen that the far end of Llanos de Libar, where the iron gates block the track
Calandra Lark Melanocorypha calandra 3/7
La Janda and Salinas de Monte Algaida
Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla 2/7
Lesser Short-toed Lark Calandrella rufescens 2/7
Salinas de Monte Algaida - exactly as described by Gosney, and Brazo del Este
Crested Lark Galerida cristata 6/7
Thekla Lark galerida theklae 3/7
Seen in all sutiable habitats
Sand Martin Riparia riparia 5/7
Crag Martin Hirundo rupestris 4/7
Swallow Hirundo rustica 7/7
Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica 7/7
House Martin Delichon urbica 7/7
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava 6/7
Only Iberian race seen
Grey Wagtail motacilla cinerea 3/7
White Wagtail Motacilla alba 5/7
Wren Troglodytes troglodytes 5/7
Robin erithacus rubecula 2/7
Rufous Nightingale Luscinia megarhyncos 7/7
Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus 7/7
Black redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus1/7
 A smart pair at Llanos de Libar
Whinchat Saxicola rubetra  1/7
Stonechat Saxicola torquata 7/7
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe 4/7
Back eared Wheatear Oenanthe  hispanica 3/7
Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucra 1/7
A few at Llanos de Libar
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius 3/7
Rufous tailed Rockthrush Monticola saxatilis 1/7
A male at Llanos de Libar
Blackbird Turdus merula 7/7
Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus 1/7
Llanos de Libar
Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti  7/7
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis 7/7
Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus 3/7
Great Reed Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus 2/7
Savi's Warbler locustella luscinioides 1/7
 A few reeling birds at Brazo del Este which gave good views
Isabelline  Warbler Hippolais opaca
2 singing males at Laguna de Mejorales
Melodious Warbler Hippolais polyglotta 4/7
Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata 1/7
In cork woodland somewhere between Alcala de los Grazules and Braque
Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantallans 2/7
Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala 6/7
Western Orphean Warbler  Sylvia hortensis 3/7
Rio Guadalhorce, Llanos de Libar and the garden.
Whitethroat Sylvia communis 3/7
Garden Warbler Sylvia borin 1/7
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla  6/7
Bonelli's warbler Phylloscopus bonelli 3/7
Common in suitable oak woodland habitat e.g. Ojen valley, Devils eye
Iberian Chiffchaff Phylloscopus ibericus 2/7
Common in suitable oak woodland habitat e.g. Ojen valley, Devils Eye
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus 1/7
Firecrest regulus ignicapillus 3/7
Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa sriata 6/7
Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca 1/7
Long-tailed tit Aegithalos caudatus 2/7
Blue Tit Parus caeruleus   5/7
Great Tit Parus major 7/7
Crested Tit. Parus cristatus
Algaida pines and North of Jimena de Frontera somewhere on the C3331
Nuthatch Sitta europaea 1/7
Ojen valley
Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla 4/7
Golden oriole Oriolus oriolus 2/7
Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis 1/7
Llanos de Libar
Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator  7/7
Jay  Garrulus glandarius 3/7
Magpie Pica pica 1/7
Red-billed chough  Pyrrhocorax graculus 2/7
Pairs at Llanos de Libar and Sierra Crestellina. Also a distant flock of 16 around a summit seen from about 3km east of Benaojan.
Jackdaw Corvus monedula 6/7
Raven Corvus corax 4/7
Spotless Starling Sturnus unicolor 7/7
House Sparrow Passer domesticus 7/7
Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis1/7
Brazo del Este
Tree Sparrow Passer montanus 2/7
Brazo del Este and Algaida pines
Rock Sparrow  Petriona petriona 1/7
Llanos de Libar
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs 7/7
Serin Serinus serinus 7/7
Greenfinch Carduelis chloris 7/7
Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes 1/7
2 flushed off the track in front of the car Ojen Valley
Linnet Carduelis cannabina 6/7
Corn Bunting Miliaria calandra 7/7
Rock Bunting Emberiza cia 2/7
Singles at Sierra del Plata and Llanos de Libar
Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus 2/7
Monk  parakeet  Myopsitta monachus 1/7

Ok, some pics at last:
 Casa Alferero
 Rio Guadalhorce
 Sat -Nav and sheep - La Janda
Great reed Warbler -Laguna de Medina
 Black Vulture in the rain - chuffed. I've only seen them in flight before : )
 Egyptian Vulture - Sierra del Retin
 Bonelli's Warbler - Devil's eye
In the garden, seawatching - mostly

Cirl Bunting Llanos de Libar
Red necked nightjar on the drive

Salinas de  Bonanza 
Llanos de Libar
Rock Sparrow

Blue rock Thrush


  1. Great trip report, Rhys. Pleased that my notes proved useful, but for those not wishing to be overwhelmed I do have a shorter 15 page version. Naturally, any interested parties reading this are welcome to a copy of either/both. I am, though, piqued that you got a couple of species I've yet to catch up with in the province - seawatching is a tad difficult from my house in Alcala de los Gazules and that lack Vulture was pure jam! John Cantelo

    1. Great trip report Rhys- excellent stuff- and a reply by the great John Cantelo :-)
      This is one of my favourite all Time areas for a holiday. I've been fortunate to get Ruppell's Vulture, Lanner Falcon, White rumped and Little Swift in the area along with a pod of Orcas. Can't recommend the area enough.
      Thanks for the comprehensive report Rhys.