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TRIP REPORTS. DECEMBER 2006.

LATEST REPORT. 30th December. Today, I was guiding Elisabeth and Jim Mardall from north London. The couple drove up from Jerez, so we met at Benacazon and made strait for the Corredor Verde area. At the two lagoons in that area we saw Grey Herons, Cattle Egrets, Tufted Ducks, Common Pochards, Little Grebes, Cormorants, Marsh Harriers, Red Kites, Serins, Greenfinches, Crested Larks and Blackcaps.
As we drove through the Corredor Verde there were Iberian Magpies, Hoopoes, 2 Thekla Larks, 3 Hawfinches, 5 Black-shouldered Kites, Buzzards, Kestrels, Southern Grey Shrikes, Zitting Cisticolas, Chaffinches, 300+ Black-crowned Night Herons and a large flock (c300) of mixed Sparrows, which included House, Tree and Spanish varieties.
A visit to the "reedbeds" before lunch produced Spoonbills, Glossy Ibis, White Storks, Black Storks, Wood and Green Sandpipers, Black-winged Stilts, Greenshanks, Dunlins, Little-ringed Plovers, Lapwings, Black-tailed Godwits, Squacco Herons, Little Egrets, Chiffchaffs and 2 Bluethroats.
After lunch we drove out to the northern marshes and found Common Cranes, 7 Great White Egrets, 40+ Stone Curlews, Greater Flamingos, Great Creasted Grebes, Pintails, Shovelers, Avocets, Hen Harriers, a Sparrowhawk and a Peregrine Falcon.

28th December. With me today were John and Liz Sly from Guildford and John Jennings from Coventry. We began the tour at El Rocío and on the road to Villamanrique we saw Iberian Magpies, Black Redstarts, Stonechats, Buzzards, Crested Larks, Corn Buntings and a Green Sandpiper.
We visited the Laguna Mancho Zurillo and the Laguna de Quema, finding Tufted Ducks, Shovelers, Common Pochrds, Cormorants, Little Grebes, Grey Herons, House Martins, Barn Swallows and Marsh Harriers.
We then drove through a part of the Corredor Verde, looking for the Black-shouldered Kites, as this was the main target bird for John Jennings. No problems! Within 30 seconds I had spotted the first one flying between some small trees and it landed on top of one of them. It was soon joined by its´ mate and John was able to video and photograph the birds.
More B-s Kites were seen, with the highlight being one of them fighting a Kestrel for some food item, probably a vole, but we couldn´t see exactly what it was. The two birds were so engrossed in their tussle that we were able to drive right up to them and get out of the car, just 20 metres away from their aerial battle.
Elsewhere in the Corredor Verde there were Hoopoes, Southern Grey Shrikes, Zitting Cisticolas, Serins, Spanish Sparrows, Sardinian Warblers, Blakcaps, Robins, Goldfinches, Common Waxbills, Red Kites, Hen Harriers, Cattle Egrets and Black-crowned Night Herons.Next on the itinerary was the Isla Mayor ricefileds, in particular, the "reedbeds". This site provided us with Glossy Ibis, 6 Squacco Herons, Little-ringed Plovers, 14 Black Storks, Greylag Geese, 100´s of Greater Flamingos, 44 Spoonbills, Purple Swamp-hens, Greenshanks, Black-winged Stilts, Teal and about 20 Wood Sandpipers.
We spent the afternoon in the northern marshes and at the regular Stone Curlew site, near the Huerta Tejada, we saw over 30 of them. Also in the same field were at least 8 Short-eared Owls.
Nearby, we saw over 20 Common Cranes, hundreds of Calandra Larks, Chiffchaffs, Lesser Short-toed Larks, a Great White Egret and a Little Owl.
The Lucio del Lobo produced 100+ Avocets, Lapwings, Little Egrets, Pintails and Common Pochards.
We then drove along the Caño de Guadiamar, but although seeing many of the previously recorded species, including 9 more Great White Egrets, we were only able to add Red-crested Pochards and Great Crested Grebes to our list, which totalled 70 species altogether.


22nd December. Today´s tour was with Luca Romanoni and Thomas Abeli, two students from near Milan, Italy. We began at the Puente de Ajóli and the Arroyo de las Cañadas, near El Rocío, where we saw Red-legged Partridges, Black-billed and Iberian Magpies, Crested Larks, Stonechats, Hoopoes, Robins, Ravens, Spotless Starlings, White Wagtails, Meadow Pipits, Cattle Egrets, Lapwings and Goldfinches.
As we headed towards Villamanrique, I drove through a part of the Raya Real and this produced 4 Black Storks.
In the Corredor Verde there were a good number of the resident Black-shouldered Kites in their breeding territories. Red Kites, Kestrels, Buzzards and Marsh Harriers also featured well, along with Serins, Southern Grey Shrikes, Sardinan Warblers, Black Redstarts, Corn Buntings and 100´s of Black-crowned Night Herons.
We crossed over the Entremuros and visited several sites in the Isla Mayor. In a wet ricefield near the "reedbeds" site, we had the star bird of the day, a Grey Phalarope, which we were able to get to within 30 metres of in the vehicle.
The "reedbeds" proved to be the best site of the day for us and we found 100´s of Glossy Ibis, Spoonbills, Little Egrets, Greylag Geese, Snipe, Greenshanks, Little-ringed Plovers, White Storks, 5 Great White Egrets, Squacco Herons, Grey Herons, Purple Swamp-hens, Cormorants, Green Sandpipers, Zitting Cisticolas, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps and Common Waxbills.
We spent the afternoon in the northern marsh area, where we saw Avocets, Black-winged Stilts, Shovelers, Pintails, Common and Red-crested Pochards, Great Crested and Little Grebes, 1000´s of Greater Flamingos, Common Cranes, Hen Harriers, a Barn Owl, 12 more Great White Egrets, Calandra Larks, Lesser Short-toed Larks and over 70 Stone Curlews.


12th December. With me today were Leon and Joan Pollen from Gravesend. The first site we visited was the Corredor Verde, but on the way to that area we saw Stonechats, Black Redstarts, Iberian Magpies, Little Egrets and a Common Buzzard.
Our first stop in the CV area was at the Laguna de Mancho Zurillo, where we saw 7 Hoopoes, Crested and Woodlarks, Great and Blue Tits, Goldfinches, Corn Buntings, Tree Pipits, Barn Swallows, Kestrels, Common Snipe and Cormorants. We moved on to the Laguna de Quema and found Great Crested Grebes, Common Coots, Tufted Ducks, a male Ferruginous Duck, Grey Herons and a female Marsh Harrier.
We then drove through a part of the Corredor Verde and alongside the Río Guadiamar, finding 5 Black-shouldered Kites, Red Kites, Ravens, Southern Grey Shrikes, Greenfinches, Serins, Blackcaps, Spanish Sparrows, Zitting Cisticolas, Meadow Pipits, White Storks and Black-crowned Night Herons.
We passed over the Entremuros and visited the "reedbeds". This is the first time I had been able to access this site for nearly 2 months, due to the amount of mud on the entry tracks following the recent rains. Even now, visiting the whole of the site is not possible, but the small area we could access produced 6 Wood Sandpipers, a Green Sandpiper, 2 Squacco Herons, 100´s of Glossy Ibis, Little-ringed Plovers, Lapwings, Chiffchaffs and a Hen Harrier.
in an un-ploughed rice field at the Cortio de las Madrigales, we counted over 130 Common Cranes, a Black Stork, 100´s of White Storks and Little Egrets and 1,000´s of Yellow-legged Gulls.
In the northern marshes we found over 30 Stone Curlews, many more Common Cranes, 4 Great White Egrets, Avocets, Black-winged Stilts, Purple Swamp-hens, Shovelers, Red-crested Pochards, a Red-knobbed Coot, Little and Black-necked Grebes, Greater Flamingos, Little Owls, Lesser Short-toed Larks and a Sparrowhawk.

11th December. Today I was guiding Nick Nutter and his partner Julie, from Sabinillas, between Estepona and Gibraltar, on the Costa del Sol. Nick is the editor of the "Andalucia Life" magazine www.andalucia-life.com and was here to get material for an article for his magazine.
We began the tour at the Corredor Verde in a strong, cold wind, but that did not stop the raptors from flying. Within an hour we had recorded 7 Black-shouldered Kites, 5 Red Kites, 4 Buzzards, 15+ Common Kestrels a Marsh Harrier and a Booted Eagle. Also in the CV were Cattle Egrets, Grey Herons, Great Crested Grebes, Tufted Ducks, Cormorants, Ravens, Southern Grey Shrikes, Crested Larks, Tree Pipits, Hoopoes and 100´s of Black-crowned Night Herons.
We moved on to the Isla Mayor and found a field with more than 100 Glossy Ibis feeding. In the same area there were Lapwings, Ringed Plovers, Little Egrets, Yellow-legged Gulls, White Wagtails and White Storks.
We stopped for a picnic lunch at Fuente de Conejos and were amazed to see 12 Black Kites and 3 Red Kites circling overhead on a thermal. Once they had reached a reasonable height, the Black Kites levelled off on glided away to the north, as if on migration. The Red Kites remained in the area. As we ate, a splendid male Black Redstart watched us from 15 metres away.
We spent the afternoon in the northern marshes area, where we watched for ten minutes as an Osprey made several dives into a river, but was unsuccessful on each occasion. We then saw 4 Black Storks, 4 Great White Egrets, 1000´s of Greater Flamingos, 100´s of Common Cranes, 8 Hen Harriers (3M & 5F), Purple Swamp-hens, Shovelers, Common and Red-crested Pochards, Zitting Cisticolas and Corn Buntings.

1st, 2nd and 3rd December. This is not a trip report as such, but a report on a weekend away.
Rebecca and I had been invited by our old friends Keith Seville and Sherill Green to spend the weekend with them at their home in Álora, in the Guadalhorce valley in the province of Málaga.
We left the Doñana region at 11.00hrs and drove for 200 kms before stopping at Teba Gorge, where we intended to do a bit of birding before continuing our journey. It was cold and very windy, but that had little effect on the birds and in 15 minutes we had seen 2 Black Wheatears, a Blue Rock Thrush, a Kingfisher, Grey Wagtails, White Wagtails, Blackcaps, Red-billed Choughs, Southern Grey Shrikes, Serins, Kestrels and a number of Griffon Vultures. The cold wind forced us back to the car and we drove the last 40kms to Álora.

Keith and Sherill own the Finca Limoneros, www.fincalimoneros.com an excellent quality guest house, set in the beautiful Guadalhorce valley, with 3 fully equipped apartments.
After an initial chat and a cup of coffee, we went for a walk along the Río Guadalhorce, which runs along the bottom end of the finca´s land. The valley through which the river flows was protected from the wind and we spent a pleasant hour watching Little Egrets, Grey Herons, a Great White Egret, Moorhens, Green Sandpipers, Little-ringed Plovers, Kingfishers, Hoopoes, Crested Larks, Serins, Great Tits, Grey and White Wagtails, Black Redstarts, Sardinian Warblers, Robins, Chiffchaffs, Jackdaws and Cormorants.
Back at the finca, the others went inside for more coffee, but I remained outside for 15 minutes and was rewarded by the sight of a Merlin attacking a small bird (possibly a Serin), just 20 metres away. I lost sight of both birds as they disappeared behind a fig tree, so I dont know if the attack was successful or not.

On Saturday morning, Rebecca and I spent an hour walking around the grounds of the finca and saw Ravens, Crag Martins and a Sparrowhawk, along with great number of passerines.

Later that morning we drove to the Parque Natural Montes de Málaga, one of the sites that is featured in my book, to show Keith and Sherill the route and area. Once again, the weather was not kind to us and at 960 metres above sea-level, it was cool, windy and misty.
We visited the Ecomuseum at Torrijos and afterwards we stood on the balcony overlooking the valley below. With the telescope we were able to get marvelous views of 10 - 12 Crossbills, 4 Bullfinches, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, Chaffinches, Hawfinches, Blackcaps and Black Redstarts.

We had planned to walk around a few tracks near the Hotel Humaina, but at this point it started raining quite heavily, so we retired to a wayside restaurant and had an excellent meal beside a roaring log fire.
The rain continued for the rest of the day, so no more birding was possible.

On Sunday morning, the rain had stopped and I was again out early walking around the finca and managed to see a Booted Eagle and four Common Cranes as they flew overhead.

Keith is also a bird guide and operates his own birding company, Scenic Bird Tours www.scenicbirdtours.com and today it was his turn to show Rebecca and I one of his favourite itineraries.

This route took us through the Valle de Abdalajis and up into a mountain range behind the town of the same name. Here we found 100,s of Linnets, Black Redstarts, Blue Rock Thrushes, Southern Grey Shrikes, Stonechats, Sardinian Warblers, a Dartford Warbler and Rock Buntings. As we were driving along, Sherill pointed out a large raptor, which I immediately recognised as a Golden Eagle. We quickly piled out of the vehicle and watched as the bird disappeared behind a low rise. Almost immediately, a smaller eagle flew out from the same area and we had good views of a Bonelli´s Eagle flying along the cliff face. This was then joined by a second Bonelli´s Eagle.

As we watched the eagles, about 20 Griffon Vultures approached our position, casually drifting along the cliff face and one of them came in low, near to the spot where the first Bonelli´s Eagle had appeared from. This was obviously the eagle´s nesting/roosting site as one of them came diving out of the sky and made repeated attacks on the vulture and chased it out of the vicinity.

We then drove to the Desfiladero de Gaitanes and had a wonderful lunch in a restaurant overlooking the reservoir, before moving on to the gorge at El Chorro. By now it was getting late and we had to return to Álora to start packing up the car in preparation for our return to Doñana, but in the short time we spent at Chorro we managed to see Grey Wagtails, Great Crested Grebes, Buzzards and 2 Black Storks.

  • Apart from offering wonderful accommodation at the Finca Limoneros, where you can just laze around all day, if that is your preference, Keith and Sherill also offer a wide range of inclusive "activity" package breaks/holidays. These include hiking, quad biking, off-road motor biking, cycling, rock-climbing, horse riding and, of course, birdwatching.
    More information on these activity breaks can be found by visiting www.aroundalora.com, another of Keith and Sherills´websites.