Spain

31st August 1981 - 18th September 1981

31st August.

An early morning departure on the Plymouth to Santander Ferry at the start of a tour around Spain, to research areas for future Birdwatching Tours with Wingspan. I was with Antony Merritt and Greg Poole, new birds for me will be in bold

We started sea-watching at 8.15am and with a couple of breaks ended at 7.45 pm, during that time we saw 35 Gannets, 4 Sand Martins, 3 Arctic Skuas, 5 Great Skuas, a Storm Petrel, 13 Common Terns, 12 Shags, 2 Black Terns, a Turtle Dove, 3 Ringed Plovers, 3 Sabine's Gulls, 34 Common Dolphins, 2 Kittiwakes and 2 Great Shearwaters with another 8 distant large shearwaters.

1st September.

We docked early morning in Santander, then began a drive south, taking our first stop at Embalse del Ebro where we saw masses of duck including 200+ Red-crested Pochard, also a Montagu's Harrier, a Hobby, 16 Yellow Wagtails and 6 Whinchats. We continued south on the N623 seeing 38 Griffon Vultures, 2 Short-toed Eagles, a Woodchat Shrike, a Cetti's Warbler, a Chiffchaff, a Pied Flycatcher, 10 Lesser Kestrels and 2 Montagu's Harriers. South of Burgos we turned onto the N234, then west to Santo Domingo de Silos where we saw 7 Griffon Vultures, 2 Crag Martins, 9 Spotless Starlings, 3 Serins, 4 Pied Flycatchers, 3 Egyptian Vultures, a Spotted Flycatcher, a Willow and a Garden Warbler.

Then we drove through the Silos Gorge where we saw c40 House Martins, 42 Crag Martins, a Peregrine, 5 Griffon and 2 Egyptian Vultures, 2 Black Redstarts, 14 Chough, a Swift, 3 Alpine Swifts, a Melodious Warbler, 2 Serins, a Pied Flycatcher, 4 Cirl Buntings and a Rock Bunting. From there we headed southwest to Aranda de Duero, on the way seeing 2 Wheatears, a Tawny Pipit, 2 Short-toed Larks, 8 Buzzards, 3 Kestrels, a Whinchat and a Raven. Then we drove south on the E5 to the Sierra de Guadarramas.

2nd September.

We started in Miraflores, one of the few places in the Sierra de Guadarrama to have hotels, here and just outside the village we saw 4 Rock Buntings, 2 Spotted Flycatchers, a Whinchat, 6 Azure-winged now called Iberian Magpies, a Woodchat Shrike, 6 Spotless Starlings and a Pied Flycatcher.

We drove south towards Madrid, to the Embalse de Santillana, a large lake which can only be viewed from the road, we saw lots of grebes including 2 Black-necked Grebes, quite a few duck and waders including a Black-winged Stilt, also a White Stork, a Tree Sparrow and 3 Great Grey Shrikes, now split and called Southern Grey Shrike.

Later, we drove back to Miraflores and then through the Sierra de Guadarrama seeing 6 Booted Eagles, 2 Red-rumped Swallows, a Southern Grey Shrike, lots of Chaffinches, Pied Flycatchers and swallows, also Serins, Coal and Crested Tits, a Red Squirrel, 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 3 Nuthatches, 3 Woodlarks, 3 Griffon and 2 Black Vultures, a Redstart, 9 Citril Finches, Mistle Thrushes, 2 Wheatears and on the road to Segovia we saw c40 Spotless Starlings and 5 Bee-eaters.

From Segovia we drove south to Avila, on the way seeing 2 more Booted Eagles, c30 Serins, 3 Buzzards, 2 Hoopoes, 2 Southern Grey Shrikes and a Roller.

From Avila south to Arenas and the Sierra de Gredos, along the way seeing 5 Crested Larks.

Sierra de Guadarrama. 

3rd September.

This morning we explored the Sierra de Gredos, stopping first at the lookout at Guisando where we saw a Crested Tit, 2 Rock Buntings, other tits and finches, a Raven, 4 Booted Eagles, 2 Short-toed Eagles and c15 Bee-eaters.

Then we drove through Candeleda to the little church at Chilla where we saw 12 Bee-eaters, a Melodious Warbler, a Pied Flycatcher, a Nuthatch, Blue and Long-tailed Tits and a Raven.

Returning to Candeleda we drove west to Plasencia on the way seeing 3 Buzzards, House Martins and Swallows, 2 Crag Martins, Crested Larks, Bee-eaters, 5 Hoopoes, a Short-toed Eagle, a Night Heron, a Red Kite, Red-rumped Swallows, 16 Ravens, a Booted Eagle and 21 Iberian Magpies.

Heading south we stopped briefly at the Rio Tagus in Monfrague National Park, seeing an Alpine Swift, 15 Griffon Vultures and a Black Stork.

Between here and Trujillo there were Bee-eaters, Red-rumped Swallows, Crested Larks, Iberian Magpies and a Honey Buzzard.

Towards evening we drove from Trujillo to Cerceres seeing 2 Barn Owls.

Bee-eater. 

4th September.

We awoke on the Rio Salor Plain south of Cerceres, we spent several hours in this area seeing 9 Southern Grey Shrikes, lots of Iberian Magpies, Crested Larks, 2 Black-eared Wheatears, 2 Turtle Doves, 13 Great Bustards, 8 Black-bellied Sandgrouse, 2 Montagu's Harriers, 2 Hoopoes, c50 Short-toed Larks, c20 Spanish Wagtails and 2 Black Storks.

Then a drive south to Montijo along the way seeing a Booted Eagle, 2 Hoopoes, Bee-eaters and a flock of 41 Cattle Egrets.

The long drive south to Saville was on main roads, with little seen from the car.

We stopped just north of Seville to visit the Italica, a Roman city which has a huge amphitheater where the Romans staged gladiator fights. Walking around the site we saw a Wheatear, 2 Black-eared Wheatears and 2 Willow Warblers.

Mosaics at the Italica.

5th September.

We drove west from Seville to El Rocio, from the bridge on the main road we saw a Little Egret, 5 Cattle Egrets, Spanish Wagtails, 2 Hoopoes, an Iberian Wall Lizard, a Red Kite, 4 Garden Warblers, a Great Spotted woodpecker, 3 Griffon Vultures, 2 Booted Eagles, a Sardinian Warbler, 4 Woodlarks and 2 Large Psammodromus lizards, new for me.

Then we drove to the Coto Beach and walked along the coastal path seeing where the dunes were encroaching inland, we saw c20 Sandwich Terns, 3 Black Terns, a Southern Grey Shrike, lots of Magpies, a Dartford Warbler, a Sardinian Warbler, 5 Red-legged Partridges, an Iberian Magpie, a Spotted Flycatcher and 2 Short-toed Eagles.

In the evening we drove along the sandy tracks, through the coastal woodland, north and east of El Rocio and eventually heard and saw a Red-necked Nightjar.

Coastal dune encroachment at the Cato de Donana. 

6th September.

Today we drove west to the Huelva Salt Pans, where there were lots of gulls, Sandwich Terns, 5 Little Egrets, 64 Greater Flamingoes, c200 Little Terns, c60 Ringed Plovers, c150 Redshank, 86 Black-winged Stilts, 23 Curlew Sandpipers, 5 Little Stints, a Little Ringed Plover, c280 Avocets, 5 Kentish Plovers, 6 Caspian Terns, 400+ Black-tailed Godwits, 2 Ruff, 4 Little Grebes, a White Stork, 5 Grey Herons, 2 Dunlin, 2 Common sandpipers, a Kingfisher, 3 Black Terns and a Red-necked Phalarope.

On the drive back to El Rocio we saw 2 Booted Eagles, a Red Kite, a Buzzard, a Southern Grey Shrike and a Cetti's Warbler. We started the evening drive around the woodland tracks a bit earlier than yesterday, seeing 8 Tawny Pipits, 12 Crested Larks, c16 Bee-eaters, 40+ Iberian Magpies, a Red Kite and another Red-necked Nightjar.

7th September.

A Land Rover tour in the Coto de Donana reserve, in this arid habitat it was strange to see so many large mammals, there was a herd of about 60 Fallow Deer, a Red Deer and a group of Wild Boar comprising of 3 adults and 3 young.

We also saw 3 Fan-tailed Warblers, 2 Stonechats, 6 Cattle Egrets, 30 Greater Flamingoes, Black-tailed Godwits, Curlew, Redshank, 2 Ravens, 2 Imperial now called Spanish Eagles, an adult and a well-grown chick sat in a nest at the top of a pine, the adult taking off and flying around. Also seen was a Hoopoe, 2 Red Kites, Lapwings, Crested Larks and lots of Sandwich Terns.

Later, we drove east to Laguna de Zonar where we saw 1000+ Mallard, Pochard, 21 White-headed Ducks, a Great Crested Grebe, 2 Spotted and a Pied Flycatcher, a Sardinian Warbler, 2 Cetti's warblers, 4 Serins, 13 Turtle Doves, 2 Crested Larks, a Tree Pipit, c10 Red-legged Partridges, a Red-footed Falcon and a Rufous Bushchat.

Red Deer in the Coto. 

8th September.

We started today at Arcos Dam seeing c30 Pallid Swifts, c10 Swifts, an Alpine Swift, 5 Great Crested Grebes, a Common sandpiper and 4 Fan-tailed Warblers. Then we got permission to enter the Bonanza Salt Pans, alongside the eastern bank of the Guadalquivir River north of Sanlucar de Barrameda. We spent the rest of the day here, seeing a Moorish Gecko, a Preying Mantis, c350 Greater Flamingoes, 1000+ Avocets, 250+ Black-winged Stilts, c200 Curlew Sandpipers, 20+ Little Stints, a Knot, 400+ Black-tailed Godwits, 20+ Spotted Redshank, Greenshanks, Redshanks, 2 Whimbrel, Ringed Plovers, 2 Ruff, 4 Kentish Plovers, 9 Grey Herons, a Red Kite, lots Of Black-headed Gulls, 5 Slender-billed Gulls and an Iberian Rock Lizard.

9th September.

Today, a tour around the southern coast of Spain, starting at Barbate where there were masses of gulls, c50 Black-tailed Godwits, a Whimbrel, 10+ Ruff, Redshanks, 4 Little and 6 Cattle Egrets and 2 White Storks. At Zahara we saw 5 Little and 12+ Cattle Egrets, c6 Sand and 2 House Martins, 5 Crag Martins, 3 Swallows, 2 Stonechats, 10 Serins,, 2 Redstarts and a Melodious Warbler. At Facinas there was a Montagu's Harrier and then we drove through the Jara Valley seeing 5 Black-eared Wheatears, 3 Sardinian Warblers, 2 Corn Buntings, 8 Montagu's Harriers, 2 Buzzards, a Kestrel, a Lesser Kestrel, a Marsh Harrier, 2 White Storks, 2 Spotted Flycatchers and a Tawny Pipit. Later, at Tarifa we saw 12 Cory's Shearwaters and c50 Cattle Egrets.

10th September.

We began the day with a drive from Algeciras to Ronda, stopping along the way, seeing a Lesser Kestrel, 55 Griffon Vultures, 3 Egyptian Vultures, a Short-toed Eagle, a Buzzard, 8 Ravens, a Booted Eagle and 2 Black Wheatears. In the gorge at Ronda there were 6 Crag Martins, a Blue Rock Thrush and 3 Chough. Then we took the road to Mijas seeing c60 Chough, 7 Black-eared Wheatears, another Blue Rock Thrush, 4 Crag Martins, a Southern Grey Shrike, a Wheatear, 2 Black Wheatears, Crested Larks, 2 Rock Buntings, c25 Corn Buntings and a Spanish Ibex.

11th September.

We started with a drive along the coast from Malaga north towards Almeria, stopping at several places along the way, there were lots of gulls resting on the rocks, including 3 juvenile Audouin's Gulls. Also seen was a Honey Buzzard, a Black Wheatear, 2 Crag Martins, 2 Dartford and 2 Sardinian Warblers.

At El Parador we turned inland towards Enix, we saw a Woodchat Shrike, a Wheatear, 2 Rock Buntings, a Blue Rock Thrush, Crested Larks and in a scrubby area managed to see a Spectacled Warbler.

Later, we returned to the coast road and continued to Benidorm.

Juvenile Audouin's Gull with Black-headed Gulls. 

12th September.

A drive from Benidorm to nearby Calpe Salt Pans, where there were 103 Audouin's Gulls ( 2 juveniles, a 2nd winter, 3 sub-adults and 97 adults ).

Also seen were c100 Black-headed Gulls, c120 Yellow-legged Gulls, an adult Mediterranean Gull, a Black Tern, 47 Kentish Plovers, a Ringed Plover, a Little Ringed Plover, a Black-necked Grebe, c25 Black-tailed Godwits, 10+ Dunlin, c10 Curlew Sandpipers, c35 Little Stints and 3 Black-winged Stilts.

Later, we continued north to Barcelona where we dropped Greg, he was staying to visit friends. Antony and I drove east to Lleida.

Some of the Audouin's Gulls. 

13th September.

A drive from Lleida west to Codo, along the way seeing 7 Lesser Kestrels, Spotless Starlings, 6 Ravens, a Honey Buzzard, 2 Buzzards and 4 Wheatears. Around Codo were Crested Larks, 2 Alpine Swifts, 4 Wheatears, a Whinchat, a Lesser Kestrel and an Iberian Hare. Later, we drove north to Embalse de la Sotonera arriving in the evening, where we saw a Barn Owl.

14th September.

Overnight at Embalse de la Sotonera, in the morning all we could see on the lake were lots of Mallard and an Osprey, we decided on a drive around the area, first north to Ardisa then west to Valpalmas, seeing 2 Iberian Green Woodpeckers, c40 Corn Buntings, 2 Whinchats, 2 Southern Grey Shrikes, 27 Cirl Buntings, 3 Tree Pipits, an Ortolan Bunting, 2 Firecrest, a Willow Warbler, 3 Dartford Warblers, Crested Larks and a Red Kite. From there south to Piedratajada seeing 2 Buzzards and 3 Red Kites, then east to Huesca seeing a Lesser Kestrel, 2 Black Wheatears, Wheatears, 21 Griffon Vultures, another Red Kite and 12 Ravens.

From Huesca we drove northwest to Riglos, on the way we saw 15 Red Kites, 2 Ravens, Wheatears, 3 Griffon Vultures and an Egyptian Vulture. At Riglos, around the impressive red sandstone pillars, there were 60 Griffon Vultures, 4 Egyptian Vultures, c10 Chough, an Alpine Chough, a Black Redstart, a Blue Rock Thrush and c20 Crag Martins.

From there we headed north towards Jaca, seeing a Red Kite, a Montagu's Harrier and 2 Pied Flycatchers.

We stopped at the Pena de Oroel view point where we saw 2 Golden Eagles, c40 Chough, 42 Griffon Vultures, a Booted Eagle, 7 Ravens and 3 Dartford Warblers.

Photos: Red sandstone pillars at Riglos.

15th September.

This morning we drove to Ordesa National Park, on the way seeing 6 Griffon Vultures, 2 Buzzards and lots of Swallows and House Martins.

We only had time for a quick look around the entrance to the central valley, seeing lots of tits including Crested Tit, Pied Flycatchers, Nuthatches, Chaffinches, Serins, lots of Crag Martins, 4 Grey Wagtails, 2 Short-toed Treecreepers, 8 Griffon Vultures, a (Black-bellied) Dipper, an Alpine Swift and 2 Alpine Chough.

From there we drove to the French boarder and began a long drive north through France.

16th, 17th and 18th September.

A long overnight drive, reaching Fontainebleu Forest a couple of hours before dawn. On a walk through the woodland we saw lots of tits, including Marsh and Crested Tits, lots of Nuthatches, Jays, Chaffinches, 2 Pied Flycatchers, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Black Woodpecker.

The following day we visited Lac de Der which at this time of year was disappointing, only seeing c40 Cormorants, a few Black-headed Gulls and a Great Crested Grebe.

We left Le Harve on the 9am ferry to Portsmouth on the 18th, during the crossing we saw Common Terns, Sandwich Terns, Gannets, 3 Black Terns, 18 Little Gulls, 2 Kittiwakes, c120 Shags, 7 Common Scoters, an Arctic Skua and a Great Skua.

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Ordesa National Park.

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