Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Birding around Zahara de los Atunes
The Costa de la Luz (Coast of Light) could also be renamed the Coast of Wind! I’ve given up on sound recording anywhere but sheltered woodland here so today I just did a normal day’s birding, seeing nearly 100 species without much effort. Taejen, one of the students, came along as he also hoped to see some reptiles on the way.
Waking at dawn, the Blue Rock Thrush could be heard (just) singing from the Castello de las Almadrabas in Zahara, though the noisy House Sparrow roost on the Avenida de la Playa almost drowned it out. By the time I left, Spotless Starling, Pallid Swift and Crested Lark were noted and the drive to La Janda via La Zarzuela produced Red-rumped Swallow, Montagu’s Harrier, Calandra Lark, Woodchat Shrike, Cattle Egret and Corn Bunting in the grazed landscape demarcated by Opuntia prickly pear hedges and lines of imposing wind turbines.
Yesterday at La Janda the hightlight was a Great Egret but there were no further sightings today. The track along the south side of the Canal Colector del Este (Río Almodóvar), running parallel to Carretera Nacional N340/E5 (accessed opposite the A-2227 road to Zahara, from building once marked Venta de Retín) was quiet compared to my visits in previous years. Again, no Purple Swamp-hens were found but several interesting species were observed including Night Heron, Audouin’s Gull, Collared Pratincole, Cetti’s Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, ZItting Cisticola, White Stork, Little Egret and Marsh Harrier.
Continuing on the track towards Benalup eventually produced a pair of Swamp-hens, several Black Kites, Lesser Kestrel, Bee-eater, Turtle Dove and Serin . A couple of migrant Redstarts were seen in some bushes and a Wood Sandpiper in the mud of a small wetland site.
I then headed to the Cueva del Moro near Bolonia to look for Little Swift. No rare swifts were seen (and still too early for White-rumped Swift) but nice views of Griffon Vultures kept up the interest along with Crag Martin, Black Redstart, Booted Eagle, and Short-toed Eagle. Sardinian Warbler, Wren and Chaffinch were singing in the scrub below the cliffs. A look around the Roman remains at Baelo Claudia for Ocellated Lizards was fruitless as it was still cold and windy.
The next trip was into the Cork Oak forests of the Parque Natural de los Alcornocales, probably my favourite place in this area of Spain. A stop at the mirador in the Puerto de Ojén to scan the hillsides and valley produced at least five Short-toed Eagles, Kestrel, Raven, Tawny Pipit, Thekla Lark and numerous Stonechats. Bird song was still strong for the time of day when I reached the forests proper and a host of birds were heard and seen including Iberian Chiffchaff, Firecrest, Robin, Bonelli’s Warbler, Cuckoo, Nightingale, Short-toed Treecreeper, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Blue Tit, Hawfinch, Nuthatch, Marsh Tit, Great Tit, Bullfinch, Crested Tit, Jay and Golden Oriole. A walk along the Sendero San Carlos del Tiradero trail to look for Iberian Wall Lizard and Psammodromus species saw a Grey Wagtail flying along the boulder stream. Speckled Woods were abundant along with Spanish Festoon, Moroccan Orange-tip and Cleopatra.
The final stop was the Marismas de Barbate and working the estuary from several sites resulted in some great birds including at least five Spoonbills, a Squacco Heron, Caspian Terns, Black-winged Stilt, Kentish Plover, Blue-headed Wagtail, Greenshank, Greater Short-toed Lark and Black-eared Wheatear.