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Spain, December 26th to 31st trip report.

I only booked the holiday only a few weeks ago booking the flight first then booked three nights accommodation via John Butler. I flew with from Coventry airport at a cost of £173 and the accommodation was 60 Euros for three nights. I managed to get a Hotel in Estopona (Hotel Buenevista) for two nights also for 60 Euros. The car hire was through Hispcars and the company they used was Global Cars. The car was a Skoda Fabia 1.4 Diesel Estate for only 67.83 Euros (approx £45) for the 5 days. I used 90 Euros of Diesel and spent 80 Euros on food and drink. All in all the holiday cost me less than £400, including the cost of one day with John Butler.

Dec 26th @ 4am.

I arrived at 4am at Coventry Airport to a seemingly disorganised scene. The conveyor belts had stopped functioning for both the cargo hold baggage and the area into the departure lounge so an orderly queue had formed. Coventry is a totally basic airport with nothing much better than what appears to be a large container style building so it wasn’t long before the place was rammed. Thankfully after about 20 minutes they got it all up and running and so now I had the near two hour wait for take off time, destination Malaga and then a long drive to the Coto Donana area of Spain. My port of call for the first three nights was in a Hostel John Butler had organised for me in a small town named Hinojos.

The plane took off right on time and also landed at the scheduled time of 09:55 to a scene of dozens of huge cranes dotted all over the skyline. Malaga Airport had become a giant building site as new buildings were springing up all over the place.

Once I had collected my baggage it was time to meet the bus from the Global Car Hire company as they were picking me up and taking me to the car I had booked. That turned out to be a nice surprise as I had only booked an almost basic model and they were giving me a Skoda Fabia estate, and it was a Diesel as well. This was a good deal as I had only paid £45 for the five days I had hired it. I had booked via a company I haven’t used before, Hispcars and they certainly seem to have done me proud for that price.

I had planned an itinerary for the day. First stop was to be Sotogrande, which is a few miles east of Gibraltar. I normally go there whenever I am in this part of Spain. First impressions of the weather were of it not being too much different from England. It was grey and overcast with very bad light conditions. This didn’t augur too well for any photography.

I decided to use the new Toll Road throughout and it took me about 90 minutes to do the journey to the eastern section of Sotogrande but I was bitterly disappointed as the weather had turned very cold and grey coupled with almost gale force winds. What didn’t help was that someone had locked the hide so I couldn’t even get out of the wind.

The first bird I saw was a Black Redstart on the beach followed five Crag Martins zooming over my head and over to the pool. Twenty plus Cormorants could be seen and a couple of Little Grebes as well as two Little Egrets and five Gannets out to sea. Close by were two Chiffchaff, a Grey Wagtail and a couple of Pied Wags but that was it. That was the sum total of birds there so it was time to move onto what is normally the more productive area of the western end of Sotogrande.

It didn’t fare much better here. Out on the Estuary were about fifty Yellow-legged Gulls, five Black-headed Gulls and a lone Sandwich Tern. Further up the estuary stood a lone Grey Heron and then four Monk Parakeets came screeching over my head. There is a fairly healthy population of them here. It was time to move onto the hide but upon arrival all that could be seen were five Purple Gallinules a Moorhen and two Mallard and nothing else. Well that was a bit of a depressing start. Surely my next port of call, which was Tarifa, would deliver the goods.

Just before Tarifa there is an area where I found a colony of Spotless Starlings a few years ago so I decided to stop there first. At least that didn’t disappoint as there were over 100 of them but in these windy conditions they were enjoying themselves in the air and wouldn’t settle down. I was hoping for a photo of one but it was not to be. Tarifa Beach was next and when I arrived I was horrified to see that the car park had been taken over by travellers. Also out on the beach were a few youths driving three wheeler racing machines. There wasn’t a bird in sight apart from five Cattle Egrets near some horses.(photo below).

The beach itself was crowded so I decided not to stop there. On the way out I did attempt some photos of the Cattle Egrets so hopefully I have something in the bag from today.

La Janda was next on my list. La Janda is an area situated a few miles north of Tarifa and a track cuts through it from near a village called Fascinas. They have virtually destroyed this once magnificent area with a huge wind farm so now I was struggling to get any birds at all.

The track itself after a few miles became very dangerous with huge holes in the ground caused by heavy lorries or tractors. It isn’t a tarmac road so when the bad weather hits that area this road suffers. I was on the edge of turning back a few times but persevered and in the end the birds seen were 5 Buzzards 6 Marsh Harriers, 1 Hen Harrier, quite a few Kestrels plus huge numbers of Corn Bunting and Goldfinch with a few Linnets as well spread along most of this access road.

Just before Benelup there is an area I found a few years go that is used as a paddy field and in the spring this brings in huge numbers of birds, not so today. As I came to a stand I could count about twenty White Stork, over 100 Black-winged Stilts, a few Common Sands, five Sand Martin a couple of Jackdaw, about fifty lapwings and three Red-legged Partridge plus a few Cattle Egret.

It was getting late so I decided to carry onto Hinojas, some 120 miles or so away. On the way I had to pass the Laguna de Medina. Surprisingly at 5:45 pm it was still fairly light but I estimated that I wouldn’t have much more than thirty minutes there to find anything. I was hoping for White-headed Duck and Red-nobbed Coot. The hide was about half a mile away and by the time I had reached the hide the light was fading fast. Out on the water I couldn’t find any of my target birds but I did find about twenty Flamingo, a couple of Teal and Gadwall as well as about fifty Mallard.

By the time I had reached the car it was almost dark and off I set for my final destination, Hinojos. As ever my timing was impeccable as by the time I had reached the Motorway system around Seville it was almost grid-locked. I eventually arrived at the Hostel where I was staying at just after 9pm, totally shattered.

I wonder what tomorrow will bring?

Species total for the day, 41 (42 if you count Monk Parakeet)

Dec 27th.

I has set the alarm on my mobile to go off at 06:30am but forgot to change the time on the mobile first so instead of waking up at 06:30 I awoke an hour later. The window shutters were closed making the room look as though it was night so I took my time getting up. I eventually went outside thinking it was 07:30 and got a shock when I walked into daylight. That was when the realisation hit me what I had done so in effect I had lost an hours birding because of it.

First port of call was El Rocio and on the way I saw Magpie, Azure-winged magpie and a Blackbird, all new to the trip list.

When I left Hinojos it was quite sunny but by the time I reached El Rocio the clouds had drifted over and yet again the light had gone and it was very cold, so much so that I had to put on a fleece pullover and jacket on to combat the temperatures. To make matters worse hardly a bird could be seen on the water until I put my scope up and there they were, about half a mile away. At least 500 Pintail, a couple of hundred Glossy Ibis (of which a small group broke away and flew over me. 57 Flamingo, a couple of hundred Greylag Geese, plenty of Shoveller and Pochard and a few Teal. There was one lone White Stork and a couple of Avocet out on the water also. Nearby to the old visitors centre (sadly still not re-built after the fire of a few years ago) were a couple of Black Redstarts (photo of one of them below) but for the main expanse of water not a bird could be seen. What a difference to earlier in the year when this place is rammed with birds. I was also very disappointed that no Black Kite were around as they are resident there. I have had them fly as low as ten feet from my head before now and they are not shy in dropping down into the streets of El Rocio so I was hoping for a photo opportunity with them.

As there were little else about I decided to go to another reserve further down the road, near Matalascanas call El Acebuche. There is a resident population of Azure-winged Magpie’s that gather around the Acebuche car park and I wanted to try for some photos of one of them. Before leaving I had to take a photo of the El Rocio white church (photo below). Also below is a photo of an early morning scene looking across part of the lake at El Rocio.

Arriving at the car park the first birds I could hear were the A W Magpies and they were soon evident in numbers flying all over t6he place. I was soon out of the car but they were not co-operating. As soon as I made any move towards them they would take flight. I hung around for thirty minutes in the hope they would gather enough confidence to come closer but they didn’t. At least I had the resident Sparrows to keep me company and they came so close to me that at times they were brushing against my boots as they walked past me. At least I got a photo opportunity from the Sparrows so I took it (photo below). It was time for a walk around this large reserve. First surprise was that there was a pair of Storks on the visitors centre roof (photo below). I had seen a few Storks on the top of some pylons but they were always lone birds. (I was later to see quite a few pairs of Storks on various nests).

The reserve itself was virtually devoid of birds. From all the hides the sum total of birds seen was 6 Mallard 2 Pochard, 2 Little Grebe and 1 Coot. The odd Stonechat would appear but that was it.

By now it had 1pm which meant it was a bit late to venture into the actual National Parque as that would mean quite a few miles driving along dirt tracks’ plus I would be having a day with John Butler on the 28th around this area so I was a bit of a loss with what to do next as I had put a bit of faith in spending time at El Rocio and also El Acebuche. I had met a couple of birders at El Acebuche and they told me that the reserve by El Rocio, (La Rocina) was even quieter than El Acebuche so that wasn’t an alternative.

Thinking of photo opportunities I suddenly remembered where there was a colony of Lesser Kestrels about 30 miles away at a town called Niebla. They inhabit a castle in the centre of the town and should provide me with the possibility of good photos so I decided to go there. Just outside of the town the traffic had come to a halt due to a crash between a car and an Artic Lorry. The car was a total write off and the lorry was on its side with its load of cans and crates spread all over the road. This meant that there was no way I was going to get in that town via this road. Upon looking at the map there was only one real alternative and that was to retrace ny steps for about six miles and take a road that lead back to Niebla via Rociana de Condado. 30 minutes later and I was parking up outside of the fort. The L Kestrel were conspicuous by there absence and I walked all around the castle twice but not one could be seen. A White Stork flew over which broke the monotony of looking at loads of Feral pigeons.

There wasn’t much else left to do so I decided to go back to El Rocio to see if anything else had arrived, but it hadn’t. It was time for some food so I sat out on the old visitors centre and at last the clouds began to disperse and let the sun through. It was a very welcoming warm sun too and at least cheered me up a bit.

Whilst eating my food I scanned the far trees and picked out a couple of Raptors which once I got the scope on them turned out to be Black Kites. I saw another two of them before I left.

It was now after 3pm so I thought it best to go home so I could do the trip reports; bird data base and photos early as I was meeting John Butler for a drink at his local bar in Villamanrique. It would be good to have it all done before I left to meet him.

I decided to go via Villamanrique as there were a couple of areas I wanted to look at but after visiting them neither of them produced anything. I had one piece of luck along the route when I came across a very obliging Southern Great Grey Shrike (Lifer) on a wire. The bird allowed me to get out of my car and walk to within about thirty feet of him, which gave me the opportunity of some photos (below).

All in all a very disappointing day. I only hope the day with John on the 28th is better than the last two days I have had.

The day did end on a better note as I had arranged to have a drink and a meal with John at his local Bar Donana in Villamanrique. A good three hours were spent having a few drinks, a meal and a good chat. One of the many things discussed was the lack of birds I had seen and John said that there was a lack of Ducks and Geese all over Donana this year. For some reason the vast numbers of Geese and Ducks had just not migrated down.

John also mentioned that he is close to finishing a book all about Donana. He is hoping to have it on the shelves within six months and he reckons that it will open up Donana to visiting birders, as he will be giving plenty of information on sites, how to get to them and what to see, all gathered from his many hundreds of visits he has done. This will be an excellent addition to any birders collection of books as Donana is a vast area with a myriad of tracks branching off all over the place and birding Donana can be quite hard if you don’t know the sites.

Dec 28th.

A day out with John Butler and what a cracker of a day it turned out to be with 77 species seen and one of those were Lifer for me.

John picked me up at the pre-arranged time of 08:30am and then proceeded to El Rocio where John had to pick up two more people, John & Liz from Guildford, Surrey.

After the initial greetings we were left El Rocio at about 9am.

First port of call was not far from Villamanrique in an area that John named as Roya Real. Birds of note seen here included Black Redstart, Zitting Cisticola and Green Sandpiper. As we progressed further we went through an area John called Turrhones Forest where a very obliging Hoopoe made an appearance (photo below). There were also a large number of Azure-winged Magpies nearby.

Not far away was the Laguna Mancho Zurillo where the first bird seen was a perched Red Kite followed by a few Chiffchaffs whilst a small party of Cormorants were roosting on one of the dead trees. A Meadow pipit put in a brief appearance and Liz spotted a Southern Great Grey Shrike which disappeared quite quickly.

We were now coming to an area that was exciting me. The reason for that is the bird I have wanted to see for a number of years was supposedly guaranteed here.

The Corre Verde area.

One of the first birds seen here was another Southern G G Shrike but we were moving ever closer to where the B S Kite were supposed to be. As we rounded a corner I told John that I recognised where we were. I had been there (albeit coming in from a different direction) a couple of years ago, again trying for this elusive bird. Within minutes John was pointing out a pair of them. They were very flighty and rarely settled. When they did they were very distant so I had to resort to digiscoping them. There was a bit of a heat haze around so the resulting images are not as good as I would have liked them to be. All this was to be eclipsed a few moments later. It also turned out a bit of a disaster as I missed out on a money shot with my new camera as I didn’t have it set right for what we were about to witness.

A bit further up the track a B S Kite came towards us. There soon followed a Kestrel then all of a sudden they converged on each other and a fight broke out. They talon locked and one of them must have been carrying prey as it was dropped in the struggle. All the while I was taking shots but when I played the images back they were all bleached out and couldn’t be seen. What a bummer.

We left to go to a small lake John knew and on the way we saw another, very distant B S Kite as well as a Red Kite. Also a Sardinian Warbler and a few House Martins and yet again another Southern G G Shrike.

Upon reaching the lake one of the first things noticed was the amount of House Martins. There seemed to be hundreds of them and amongst them I picked out a couple of Swallow. Out on the water were Tufted Duck, Shoveller Pochard, Mallard, Little Grebe whilst in the surrounding trees and bushes was a large number of Chiffchaff that were joined by three Blackcap and a few Serin. A Marsh Harrier made a brief appearance before plunging into some undergrowth and staying there.

Next on John’s itinerary was a Night Heron roost that John reckoned was holding a few hundred of them. On the way we were to see another two B S Kite as well as a few more Serin, a party of about twenty Spanish Sparrow, Crested lark & Corn Buntings.

The Night Heron roost was as good as John had predicted. There seemed to be Night Herons flying all over the place as well as plenty roosting in the trees. I took quite a few flight shots and some of them are shown below. Whilst watching them John shouted that a few Common Waxbills were passing and sure enough six of them flew over our heads and disappeared into the distance.

John’s next area was a place he calls the Reedbeds. This is an area of reeds and paddy fields. Large areas of shallow water as well as ditches and reeds is home to quite a few birds. Those seen here included Squacco Heron (photo’s below) Flamingo & Glossy Ibis (too distant for photography) Black Stork behind a load of reeds. Everything else was again too far away for photography but birds included were Wood Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Greenshank, Black-winged Stilts, Little-ringed Plover, Purple Swamp Hen, Grey heron, Spoonbill, Cormorant & Lapwing.

Quite a few Flamingo's and Spoonbills took flight and flew past us giving me a chance of a flight shot of them.

From here John took us to a place called Dehesa De Abajo which is a body of water specially built for wildlife. There is a visitor’s centre there and picnic tables (which is why we were going there as it was time for lunch). One thing that was evident was the amount of Storks and John explained that this is the largest tree roosting White Stork site in Europe. All around us you could here the Storks Bill clapping. Whilst we tucked into the food John had brought yet again another Southern G G Shrike made an appearance.

John’s next move was to take us to a place he knows as Huerta Tejada. On the way we saw quite a few Common Crane, some more Black Stork and a few Great White Egrets (photo below). I also found a beautiful male silver back Hen Harrier.

Huerta Tejada is known for its wintering Stone Curlews but when we got there I was in for a bigger surprise when at least 9 Short-eared Owls were there also ( a not very good photo below). I also counted at least 22 Stone Curlew here, far too far away for photography. Another nice surprise was a rather obliging Little Owl (photo below). It was a bit distant (about 60+ feet away) but at least it was posing nicely for me.

We decided to drop into the JAV centre so Liz and John (confusing with three John’s in the party) could have a coffee and use the loo if needed. On the way John Butler found about fifty Calandra Lark plus a Lesser Short-toed Lark. At the centre I tried to find a Crested lark to photograph but for the first time in all my visits to there none could be found.

There was very little at the JAV centre but a bit of excitement enthused when John called me over to see a Hedgehog, which apparently is a sub species of ours. This one supposedly has a long snout. Judge for yourselves from the photo below.

On our journey home a couple more trip ticks were added with Red-crested Pochard & Great-crested Grebe. The last part of the day was to re-visit the Night Heron colony again but by the time we reached there the light was fading fast. At the time seemingly hundreds of Egrets were coming into roost and as we drove away even more could be seen coming in.

That was the end of a brilliant day. The sun had come out and for the most part of the afternoon it had been very warm and pleasant. I had got the bird I have most wanted for a few years so I was more than happy.

If any of you are thinking of coming to Donana you really ought to think about hiring John Butler’s services as he knows the area like the back of his hand. He can also got to areas that the likes of you and I can’t go because a special licence is needed, which he has. Just go to my links page and you will see a link to his website. below is a phot of me and john Butler plus the vehicle he used to transport us around Donana.

Dec 29th.

Today didn’t start very well and gradually got worse as the day went on. It was my intention to start birding near Campillo which meant driving past Seville but somehow I got in the wrong lane and ended up driving into Seville and found it very difficult to find my way out. I did do one route that ended up on a country road to Cordoba so immediately turned back and straight into Seville again. This time I ended up on the Motorway to Cordoba but this time I stayed on it and came off one of the junctions and went across country until I picked up the motorway for Osuna.

It was my intention to do Laguna Dulce first but I had seen another laguna on the map fairly close by called Laguna del Bosque which I thought would be worth a look. I soon found the road but couldn’t find any track that went to the water. In fact I couldn’t even see the water. The track I went looks a likely spot to visit when the spring birds arrive as there is a variety of habitats here. I did see my first Green Woodpecker of the trip and also at least 10 Hoopoe’s, one of which was investigating a hole at the side of a building. Yet again another Southern Grey Shrike was found. A couple of Spotless Starlings, a Black Redstart, Crested Lark and a Corn Bunting, plus there were about a dozen Red-legged Partridges (photo below) on the track. it was taken with the sun very low in the sky, hence the orange colour of the image.

Next stop was Laguna Dulce and this was start of things to come. As I approached Campillo it was submerged in a sea of fog with the visibility down to a hundred yards. Not daunted I carried on but it got worse, so much so that I didn’t even see the entrance to the Laguna it was so bad so I continued to the Laguna de Fuente de Piedra but that was just as bad. I had no choice but to turn back and head for Teba gorge. Upon arrival the sun was shining brilliantly but the gorge itself was covered in a heavy mist that you couldn’t see through. It was 10am so I decided to stop for a bite to eat, hoping that the sun would disperse the mist. Thankfully it did and an hour later I started a 90 minute search of the gorge in the hope of Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Chough and some over flying raptors. What did I get? 5 Blackcaps, 5 Black Redstarts, three Wren, a Little egret, loads of Sparrows and plenty of Rock Doves. The only bonus was I got to see a Cetti’s Warbler, having heard loads.

At last a piece of luck came my way as I headed towards Ronda. At the 11km mark two raptors drifted behind some trees and thankfully there was a place to park the car. They were distant but I managed to get my scope on them. They were a pair of Bonnellie’s Eagles and they were being harassed by a dwarfed Kestrel. They drifted on totally unconcerned and the Kestrel soon lost interest. Whist there I also found my first Nuthatch of the trip and also a Woodlark.

I was heading for Montejaque, in the Sierra Grazalema where I was hopeful of picking up some specialities. Not long after I arrived there I was watching a Blue Rock Thrush. A digisccoped image below).

Nothing else appeared to be in that area so I moved further up the road and a few more B R Thrush appeared and this time a lone Black Wheatear showed, albeit distantly. Just then a couple of Griffon Vultures floated by, too high for photographs, and over the next hour I was to see another four of them. Sadly the Rock Buntings and Sparrows didn’t show.

It was now getting on for mid afternoon and I had to call into a friends in Gaucin to see if they could put me up for a couple of nights but just as I arrived they were about to get into a car to catch a plane back to England. Apparently my friend had been mugged the day before in La Linea and was badly shaken up. After much searching I managed to find a relatively cheap hotel (30 Euros per night) in Estopona and decided to stay there for the last two nights of my stay.

Dec 30th.

A very poor day for the birds. I only decided to go to two places today. The Refugio de Juanara, near Marbella, and Los Reales, which overlooks Estapona.

I did have one piece of luck as I arrived at the Refugio when a Short-toed Treecreeper started to shimmy up a tree close to me. Unfortunately it6 was in extremely bad light so a photo was no option. If it had been light enough the bird would have been close enough for a good shot. This was in the Hotel gardens, which I wasn’t supposed to be as it is for clients only (found that out as I pulled out to go further on. Nothing else there apart from a Blackbird. From here you drive a short distance to some gates where you have to park your car. From here you can walk direct to a Mirador, about a mile ahead of you or pick out any of the tracks that go left or right of you. I chose the former but did deviate slightly which got me a real bonus of a bird. It was a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. That was amazing as I didn’t think there were any in this part of Spain. Still there is no confusion species here in Spain so it was an easy call. As he disappeared I heard the faint call of a Crested Tit and eased my way through the trees towards the call. My reward was fairly distance views of 4 of the little beauties. They didn’t hang around when they saw me and quickly disappeared..

I went back onto the main track towards the Mirador and within 100 yards came across a lone Rock Bunting but he quickly disappeared giving me know chance of a photo. About 400 yards further I came across two more. They were feeding in a channel by the side of the road, in deep shade. I was thin about 70 feet of them and decided if they would come closer to me and at the same time come out onto the path, where it was sunny. I managed three distant shots as record shots but waited patiently for a better one.

In the distance I could here a group of people behind me but they were some distance away yet. What I hadn’t bargained for where their two Dachshunds. They ran straight past me and careered through where the two birds were sending them up into the air and of into the beyond. From then on it got fairly quiet. I did come across a couple of jay and a small flock of 10 Serin but that was about it.

I carried onto the Mirador for a good landscape shot but it was all below me was under some low lying cloud so that was a wasted walk over the last half mile.

It was time to go to Los Reales. What a bitter disappointment that was. Only two species seen throught the long haul up to the Summit. Two Coal Tits and two Red-legged Partridge. I did hear a Great Spotted Woodpecker call but that was the sum total of my visit there. One other note is that I didn’t see one raptor the whole day, which is a first for me in Spain.

By now it was nearly 4:30pm so I decided to call it a day and to bring my records up to date on my laptop. Just a half a day left and I am planning to go to the Rio Guadalhorce, if I can find it that is. It supposed to be an excellent site, right by Malaga Airport but there has been a lot of work and changes done over the last few years and the guide books tell you to try and find your own way in as the old access points have changed.

Dec 31st (and last day)

I decided to sleep in and then make my way to the reserve at Guadalhorce reserve which is only 5 minutes from Malaga Airport. I didn’t leave Estapona until 08:30 and was in the reserve at 09:45, having driven a leisurely drive to it.

Straight away a Monk Parakeet dropped into a tree by the side of me then cracked of a twig and flew away with it. Nest building? Perhaps they are early nesters. I disturbed a Crested Lark on the beach as I made my way to the reserve proper. On the water were a few Yellow-legged Gulls as well as some Black-headed Gulls. As I walked up to the reserve about thirty Monk Parakeets dropped to the san near me and I had a chance to take about three photos before they flew of (photo Below).

For the first 15 minutes I couldn’t find anything then in the distance I could see about 6 birders with scopes up – a mini twitch? I joined them and introduced myself and found one of them to be no less than Andrew Paterson, co-author with Ernest Garcia of the Where to watch birds in |Southern & South Western Spain.

The first bird seen was a new one for the year, a White Headed Duck. Steve Lister & I had tried, and failed to find these in Turkey earlier this year. I tried and failed in a few spots in and around Donana as well so this was a nice bonus to start my last day with. Out on the water were Coot, Moorhen, Shoveller, Pochard, and a Marsh Harrier flew over. The group left me at that point and I stayed on to see if I could get any photos but nothing came close enough for me to even try.

I worked my way round and caught up with them as they were leaving another pool to be told that a Tufted Duck (apparently an unusual visitor to this reserve) and a Red crested Pochard were in attendance. It didn’t take me long to find them and also a couple of Mallard as well. The group seemed to be moving towards the motorway area of the reserve. Mindful that I only had another two hours here I decided to cut across to the other arm of the Guadalhorce river (it splits here creating an island where this reserve is situated).

Along this route I found a couple of Black Redstarts and a Meadow Pipit plus further along were three Serin. As I walked up the bank by the river the group were just walking by so I joined them for the last leg of the journey, and this is where things hotted up. Looking skywards I spied a raptor and as it approached I called out “Booted eagle”. Andrew and the others looked up and confirmed it was a pale phase one (photo below).

An Osprey followed plus another two Booted Eagles, another Osprey and a Buzzard and a few Marsh Harriers and Kestrels. That was a nice session. A few minutes later a Southern Grey Shrike was found by the party then out on the nearest water were about 10 Black-winged Stilts, two Green Sandpipers, two Redshanks, two cattle Egrets and Little Egrets whilst three Flamingos flew across the reserve, albeit distantly. Stonechat was added to the list as well as Kingfisher that darted across us.

We reached a raised area that is used for seawatching. Aparrently I had missed three Balearic Shearwaters that had been loafing on the water earlier on. Still three more trip ticks were to be had here. Sanderling, Turnstone and 7 Razorbills out on the sea.

That was an excellent end to a hard working birding five and a half days. The end total of species was 114 so I can’t complain really but apart from my day with Jouhn Butler all the other days were very hard work in finding anything. Give me the spring in Spain anytime.

A few more images. 1st image is of the car I hired. 2nd image is of the Teba Gorge.

Two views from Los reales. the first from behind and the 2nd from the front.

A little Hedgehog we found outside the JAV centre on Donana.


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