September 2nd-9th 2023 Another year and another superb 7 days birdwatching in Andalucia!
Griffon Vulture – seen daily a lovely portrait of one coming into a carrion to feed.
Day One – Saturday September 2nd
I collected the group from the airport around midday as we headed East we saw several occupied White Storks nests before we reached our accommodation at Huerta Grande.
We then spent a while getting everybody into rooms, before having a wander around Huerta Grande, there was Firecrest, Hawfinch, Spotless Starling, Short-toed treecreeper, Iberian Chiff-chaff, Blackcap, Pied Flycatcher, Iberian Jay, Great Spotted Woodpecker, a fly over Serin in the grounds. Whilst scanning from the boardwalk area, with views out over the Straits, it gave us our first raptors and Vultures, with Booted Eagle, Short-toed Eagle, Honey Buzzard, Black Kite, Egyptian & Griffon Vulture all passing by.
We then headed to Los Lances beach as it was light winds and quiet along the shore. The walk out gave us the expected numerous Cattle Egrets and Corn Buntings plus Crested Larks flitting along the field edges.
As we wandered to the pools, there were numerous Zitting Cisticola, 1-2 Sardinian Warblers and numerous Common Stonechats.
The pools held a number of shorebirds, numerous Sanderling and Ringed Plover and in amongst these were 2 Whimbrel, Redshank, Common Sandpiper. Sat out on the posts there were 2 perched Sandwich Terns. There was a nice gull roost and amongst the numerous Yellow-legged gulls were a few beautiful Audouin’s Gulls, also a single Lesser black-backed Gull.
We then wandered along the boardwalk and were soon watching several Short-toed Lark, there were a few Iberian Yellow Wagtails flying over as well. As we wandered along, we flushed a Hoopoe, always a crowd pleaser, in fact we had around 6 Hoopoe by the time we left with 4 perching almost together at one point!
Along the same area 2 Tawny Pipits dropped into view affording nice views, showing very well.
A lovely start to the trip, the day was rounded off with a lovely evening meal at Huerta Grande with a few glasses of wine and beers!
Day Two – Sunday September 3rd
Today was unusual weather for this tour! We were faced with overnight rain and thunderstorms, with continuing showers in the morning. I took the decision to head to Barbate estuary and saltpans, where we could easily view close by the minibus and also use the tailgate as a large shelter!
On arrival I pulled off the road to view the shore where the estuary empties into the sea, it was still drizzling and there was a nice selection of shorebirds feeding, undisturbed (which wouldn’t have been the case if it had been sunny!) along the near pools and shore. There was a nice flock of Sanderling, several Turnstone, Oystercatcher, Dunlin, Redshank, Ringed Plover and quite a few Kentish plover.There was a roosting gull flock with Yellow-legged, Lesser black-backed and a good number of Audouin’s Gulls. Further on in the rocky pools a Greenshank was also present.
We then headed along a track to the saltpans, but stopped pretty quickly as there were lots of birds in the small wet pools, one of the first waders was a nice juvenile Little Stint, with a backdrop to lots of Ringed and Kentish Plover. Also here were several very smart Iberian Yellow Wagtails
We then headed to the main saltpans, viewing the various pools form sevral vantage points along the tracks, we were soon enjoying a lovely mix of birds. Several Common Sandpipers, 3 Green Sandpiper, 5 Turnstone, 50 Sanderling, 20 Dunlin, 30 Ringed Plover, 20 Kentish Plover, Redshank, c80 Avocet, Black-winged Stilt and 5+ Little Stints There was over 60 Audouin’s Gulls with a backdrop of pink Greater Flamingo’s, several Spoonbills and lots of Little Egrets. The near shore offered up nice scope Iberian Yellow Wagtails.
By late morning the rain had eased, and we drove further to view the other pools, here we located 10+ Stone Curlew on the nearby hillsides, a juv Montagu’s Harriers was quartering the hillside and we got brief flight views.
Further along provided a single Red Knot, Shelduck plus Grey Plover and a Black-tailed Godwit. As we drove further we also added Tawny Pipit, 2 Northern Wheatear and a Woodchat Shrike along the fence line.
We lunched whilst enjoying the views of the wetland and then headed off, but not before several Hoopoe gave nice views in the nearby cattle fields. We now headed North of Barbate, to view a freshwater area. This proved worthwhile as we added another wader species, with at least 4 Wood Sandpipers, plus several more Greenshank on view. A surprise was a couple of Common Waxbills feeding in one of the nearby gardens!
We then took the road North and headed round to the North East stopping off in area known for seeing Bald Ibis, a quick pull in and stop soon provided us with several Bald Ibis in flight and then 1-2 perched further along by the roadside.
We then headed to La Janda for a short visit last afternoon, just along the canal area.
On arrival there was a small group of 20 White Storks and around 10 Glossy Ibis also present, several groups of Corn Buntings flew over, plus flocks of Goldfinch Linnet, mixed flocks of Sparrows including some Spanish Sparrows.
We then headed along the track, parallel to the canal and were soon pulling up to enjoy a lovely juvenile Montagu’s Harrier, then shortly followed by a Purple Heron that flew up from the canal then dropped back in again. Further along the track 2-3 Marsh harriers appeared and as we edged further along, a group of 10 Turtle Doves sitting on the wires.
We sat watching the Turtle Doves, when we suddenly noticed a Black-winged Kite which very conveniently perched up nearby on top of one of the pylons! We also found a second Black-winged Kite though this one was perched a lot further away!
We headed further on and enjoyed a couple more juvenile Montagu’s Harriers, plus a few Crested larks on the track, several ubiquitous Zitting Cisticolas and a damp area held a nice group of around c20 Iberian Yellow Wagtails. We were having a great afternoon’s birding, and it was rounded off very nicely when a group of c25 Bee-eaters chose to perch up on wires and eventually gave lovely low flight views right in front of us, followed up by a very obliging juvenile Woodchat Shrike that perched up close to the minibus!
Back at Huerta Grande Firecrest, Crested Tit and Hawfinches, were still providing nice views around the accommodation!
Day Three – Monday September 4th
We started off at Algarrobo watchpoint with a lovely morning of raptor migration, not big numbers but a steady stream of Honey Buzzards. During the first hour, birds were much lower and after 3 hours, we had witnessed a good passage of c800 Honey Buzzard, plus smaller numbers of 25 Booted, 8 Short-toed Eagle and 10 Black Kites, a flock of White Storks passed over, plus c25 Griffon Vulture were also above the ridge and a single Common Buzzard. A few other migrants passed by, mainly Swallows and Martins, but a Hoopoe flying by was lovely and it was great to have a Western Bonelli’s Warbler popped up in the nearby bushes, showing intermittently.
We picnic lunched in the shade at Algarobba, as it was a much more typical Spanish day with clear sunny skies and the temperature nudging 25c. After lunch we headed towards the Palmones where we reached the nice vantage and viewpoint on the West side of the estuary.
From the view-point there was a nice selection of birds, we started scanning and were soon admiring a perched Osprey sat in trees. Out in the estuary, there was 3 Black-winged Stilts, 2 Avocets. 2 Oystercatcher, 2 Grey plover, 10 Ringed Plover, 2 Whimbrel, Curlew, a few Dunlin, 3 Common Sandpiper, 2 Greenshank, 16 Common Redshank, Common Tern, the first Little Tern of the trip, 12 White Stork, numerous Grey Heron and Little Egret.
Overhead but high now was some continued raptor passage with small group of Honey Buzzard, plus Booted eagle, Black Kite and Marsh Harrier. The bushes were quiet, though we did glimpse another Western Bonelli’s Warbler.
It was now mid-afternoon and getting very hot, the group decided they would like to head back and mix some birding with a cool down around the pool.
Back at Huerta Grande, there was a few more migrant passerines, with several Pied & Spotted Flycatchers,Iberian Chiff-chaff, Serin and a calling Iberian Green Woodpecker.
As the light faded with clear skies the local Tawny Owls were very vocal!
Day Four – Tuesday September 5th
We had a slightly earlier breakfast at 7.45am, to enable us to make the journey up into the mountains before the heat of the day arrived.
We eventually arrived in the first birding area, the temperature was rising so we had a quick hour with great success in the main parking area, exploring the trees, bushes and an nearby spring fed water trough. The first birds were several Common Redstarts, just nearby an Iberian Grey Shrike was sat on top of the bushes, a lovely, prolonged scope views.
As we wandered through the bushes, birds kept popping into view, Spotted Flycatcher, Mistle Thrush, Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper, Dartford and Sardinian Warbler, then next a superb male Black-eared Wheatear, a stunning mix of black, white and apricot! Next a ‘rippling’ call that didn’t sound immediately familiar had us craning our heads skywards, it took a minute to locate the birds giving the repeated calls – a lovely group of 7 Alpine Swifts!
We did circuit of the area, the drinking trough often productive on previous years was quiet presumably after the heavy rain there was natural pools elsewhere.
As we headed back towards the minibus, a Woodlark flew up, and then a male Subalpine Warbler was giving some short bursts of song, after some time it appeared giving reasonable intermittent views.
It was already getting quite hot, so we drove through the forest heading for another open area. We reached my chosen rocky valley in a more open area, parked up and started to explore. There were Crag Martins hunting insects along the ridge. The shrubs above held Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Goldfinch. A short walk on and we had nice views of a couple of Black Redstart. Further along the first Rock Bunting was heard calling and after a period of scanning it was eventually located along with second Rock Bunting.
We were now into a much more open area, and I was keen to see if the regular Black Wheatear were around! We searched for a while and that gave us great views of 2 Dartford warblers, there was 2-3 Serin in the area, Iberian Chiff-chaff and eventually the first of 2 Black Wheatears appeared and gave us nice scope views.
It was quiet for raptors save a few Booted Eagle, a small group of 15 migrant Honey Buzzards passed through, plus a single Short-toed eagle and several Griffon Vulture.
It was early afternoon and it had been a very successful morning, so we lunched back in the parking area at the sandwich tables and then stopped off for coffees on the way back down. We next headed for the lovely viewpoint at Casares and from here and watched a nice group of c50 Griffon Vultures. It was hot now and it was after some time that a Blue Rock Thrush eventually decided to put in an appearance, eventually joined by a second one!
From the watchpoint scanning the skies also gave us some overhead migration with
3 Egyptian Vultures, a steady line of c100 migrant Honey Buzzards, purposely heading South, also migrant Booted and Short-toed Eagles mixed in as well.
A Sparrowhawk was also seen high above the rock face behind us. Plus a migrant flock of Bee-eaters passed through as well.
We headed back from here down the Rio Genal valley, a former location I use to visit, sad to see that the over development of Citrus and Avocado production in this area! We arrived back at Huerta Grande and were treated to a flurry of Alpine Swift migration over the accommodation with several hundred birds passing over.
Day Five – Wednesday 6th September 2022
Today we had a long day ahead of us, with a boat trip and an evening birding session planned. So, we started with a quick look for an hour at Algarrobo, before heading to Tarifa harbour. There was again a steady passage of c300 Honey Buzzard, with some nice low birds passing overhead, plus Booted and Short-toed eagle also 4 Marsh harriers.
We arrived at Tarifa harbour late morning ready for our boat trip and boarded the boat and headed out into The Straits, on the way out we crossed paths with several nice close Cory’s Shearwaters, we hadn’t been travelling too long when a pod of 10+ Striped Dolphins were spotted and we had lovely views as they came close, some diving close to the boat. As we watched these Dolphins and a second group I picked up a Petrel flying low across the sea, the size and flight wasn’t like Storm and as it banked up and the upper wing covert panels were obvious I realised it was a Wilson’s, fortunately it came closer and Lee managed to fire off some shots and we could see clearly it was a Wilson’s Petrel.
We moved off after a while of watching the Dolphins, then the crew located a distant blow, and announced they had a distant SPERM WHALE!!
The boat sped off and as we got closer the diagnostic angled blows from the Sperm Whale could be seen and we were soon close enough to see the back and tail intermittently of these fantastic cetaceans. We were very fortunate as the Sperm Whale stayed on the surface for 15-20 minutes before finally diving and fluking, enabling everyone to enjoy spectacular views!
We now headed off again but it wasn’t too long before we were stopping for a group of Long-finned Pilot Whales, a nice group of 10+ of these social cetaceans (which arein actual fact, Dolphins!). Whilst watching these we also had several more Cory’s Shearwaters, plus overhead there was a steady stream of Honey Buzzards plus some White Storks literally migrating over the ocean heading to Africa. Also on migration were a small group of Black Terns that also passed by over the sea.
The two hours out on the boat had whizzed by with almost constant entertainment and we headed back to the harbour. It was now a round 2pm and hot and so we headed off for a nice leisurely Tapas lunch.
After Lunch we headed up to one of the more Westerly watchpoints, with shade. Our timing was good as we arrived a mass of Griffon Vultures were falling from the skies, clearly dropping on to food very close by! We had stunning views and could actually hear the birds the other side of some vegetation interacting on the ground. Also above was a very nice, if high migration of 1000+ Honey Buzzard, also 11 Black Stork, 100 White Stork, Black Kite, Short-toed & Booted Eagle migrating overhead.
Down at eye-level several Thekla Lark were running round on the ground and 2 Black-eared Wheatears showed nicely too.
We headed off late afternoon for cold drinks and ice creams, as it was still a bit too hot to head to La Janda and time was still on our side.
We arrived at La Janda around 6.30pm and as we arrived a lovely flock of c130 White Stork settled on the ground. We stopped to admire the flock and were soon also enjoying both Montagu’s and Marsh harrier, with an adult male Montagu’s harrier also appearing this time, everyone’s favourite! There was quite a strong breeze now and a flock of c300 Swallow, with a few Sand Martins came past low, shortly followed by a lovely group of c20 Alpine Swift.
We then headed along the canal stopping off for a Black-winged Kite, plus a pool area that had clearly formed in the last few days. There was Common, Green Sandpiper and 25 Glossy Ibis and quite a few Iberian Yellow Wagtails. Nearby the reedbed had a few Reed warblers and David also found a juv migrant Subalpine warbler.
We then headed to our final birding destination of the day as the sun finally sank below the horizon. As it darkened a Red-necked Nightjar finally appeared, flying past us, giving good views and was joined by a second bird shortly afterwards, both giving nice close fly-by’s, they didn’t land on the track though this year!
As we left, we could hear both Stone Curlew and a Little Owl calling, rounding off a truly wonderful day.
Day Six – Thursday 7th September
The wind had turned back to Levante, and we headed after breakfast to Cazalla watchpoint. It was a pretty good choice with a good increase in variation and numbers of raptors.
Over the next few hours, we had a constant stream of birds, many recirculating in the strong Levante wind, just the Honey Buzzards strong and confident to pass out over the sea towards Africa. Over the next few hours we watched c150 Honey Buzzard, 200 White Stork, 12 Black Stork, 35 Egyptian Vulture, 30 Short-toed Eagle, 40 Botted eagle, Marsh Harrier, Black Kite, steady passage of Swallows. 1-2 Yellow Wagtails and several flocks totalling around c150 Bee-eaters.
In the afternoon we headed back to Huerta Grande where some of the group took time out to relax by the pool whilst others joined me at the boardwalk area withg views across to the Straits. The Honey Buzzard migration was continuing with other raptors, circulating but not crossing the Straits. Over another couple of hours, 1000 Honey Buzzard passed by, variation.10 Short-toed Eagle, Montagu’s Harrier, 3 Sparrowhawk & 250 Bee-eaters.
Around the wooded areas of the accommodation there was Spotted and Pied Flycatcher, Crested tits were showing by the feeders, while at least 5 Hawfinches were showing in the pines.
Day Seven – Friday 8th September
Our last full day of birding and with raptors and storks still on the move and slightly lighter winds we decided to have a morning at Cazalla and then head back to Algarobbo watchpoint.
At Cazalla there was lots to watch during the morning session with 80+ Egyptian Vulture, 200 Short-toed Eagle, 200 Booted Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Osprey, Black Kite, c300 White Stork in several flocks – though none of them went out over the sea. Bee-eaters and Swallows were coming through again with several flocks totalling around 250 Bee-eaters and 300 Barn Swallows over the morning.
We headed back just after lunch and some of the group decided to take their last chance of the swimming pool, whilst I took the rest to Algarrobbo to watch a continuation of the morning’s migration.
Up at Algarrobo in the afternoon the birds were still passing, and we were told they had c3000 Honey Buzzards pass through in the morning! We had another 2 Ospreys and another 2 Marsh harrier, more Bee-eaters, 30 Egyptian Vulture, 20 Short-toed and 30 Booted Eagles.
We managed to head back around 4pm and join the others around the pool where raptors were still drifting over as we cooled off!
We enjoyed our final lovely evening meal at Huerta Grande, thanked the staff for their hospitality and everyone headed off ready for an early start to head home in the morning.
Day Eight – Saturday 9th September
After breakfast we loaded up the minibus and dropped everyone to Gibraltar airport at 900am ready for their 11am morning flight back to the UK.
This tour was again hosted at the wonderful accommodation at Huerta Grande! Its geographical location is very close to the raptor watch-points. The migration overhead set in the beautiful woodland, with passerine migration outside the chalets are all great reasons for using this as our accommodation.
The accommodation consists of a lovely set of houses, rooms and timber lodges set in 7 hectares of Laurel forest and Cork Oak trees.
All rooms were en-suite or with separate private bathrooms plus each came with a small lounge area a kitchenette complete with a fridge, plus tea and coffee facilities. The rooms are clean and simple with modern comfort. There is a 20 metre pool where you can cool down and then look upwards and watch the migration above you!
Each morning we were treated to cereal, muesli, juices, bread, toasts, jams, cheese, hams, tea & coffee! A real, filling & healthy breakfast.
Packed lunches were generally, a selection of filled rolls with cheese, Iberian meats, in French sticks, crisps and fruit.
Evening meals were taken at Huerta Grande on six evenings. They provided us with an excellent range of three course meal with a glass (or more!) of wine for 20 euros.
I would like to say a special thanks to Katrin at Huerta Grande. Also, thanks to the clients who joined me, you were a great group and it was a pleasure to share so many great spectacles!
This was another fantastic trip to Andalucia, our 10th year.
Species numbers recorded (132) are a minor part of the experience, the truly fantastic migration that passes through this region is nothing less than a truly spiritual experience for keen birdwatchers!
Amazing Migrants Tour 2024
Next tour 2024 Andalucia Tour dates 2nd-9th September
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