21st April 1984 - 5th May 1984.
A flight from Gatwick Airport to Madrid with 10 people and myself as leader in the group, at the airport we were met by Jorge Morales who was to be our co-leader and interpreter.
From Madrid we headed north towards the Sierra de Guadarrama, stopping several times along the way, seeing lots of Spotless Starlings, several larks including a Thekla Lark,
2 Little Ringed Plovers, 3 White Storks, 2 Hoopoes, 4 Nightingales, a Pied Flycatcher, 2 Tree Sparrows, 2 Cuckoos and hearing a Grasshopper Warbler.
The view from the windows in our hotel in Miraflores overlooked the foothills of the mountains and we watched 2 Crag Martins as they hawked insects outside, also seeing 3 Serins and a Nightingale.
In the evening we made a short visit to a wooded area above the village where we saw 4 Nuthatches, 5 Bonelli's Warblers, a flock of 14 Bee-eaters, 2 Hoopoes, 2 Cuckoos, a Whinchat, 2 Subalpine Warblers, 3 Rock Buntings, 2 Nightingales, 2 Ravens and 2 distant eagles.
Photo: Spanish race Nuthatch.
All day spent in the Sierra de Guadarrama, around the hotel we saw Spotless Starlings, 2 Nightingales, 2 Crag Martins, 2 Coal Tits, 4 Serins, heard 2 Cetti's Warblers and a Sparrowhawk and a Short-toed Eagle flew over.
We set off towards the mountains, stopping regularly along the route seeing 6 Jays, 2 Red Squirrels, lots of tits, 12 Rock Buntings, 5 Bonelli's Warblers, a group of at least 6 Water Pipits, 11 Wheatears, a Kestrel, 10 Skylarks, 2 Stonechats, a Black Redstart, 8 Woodlarks and a Pied Flycatcher.
By late morning it had started warming up and we saw our first large bird of prey, a Black Vulture glided over, we saw 14 in total, followed by 2 Booted Eagles, another Short-toed Eagle,
8 Griffon Vultures and 14 Ravens, and, circling low over a nearby hillside a Goshawk.
Our lunchtime location was amidst the pines on the slopes of the highest point where we had excellent close views of a group of 7 Citril Finches, also a Great Spotted Woodpecker, 3 Nuthatches, 2 Short-toed Treecreepers, 6 Crested Tits, 2 Chaffinches, 2 Firecrests and a Mistle Thrush.
We returned to the hotel via the Embalse de Santillana, which held a few ducks, 5 Great Crested Grebes, 3 White Storks, 2 Blue-headed Wagtails, Spotless Starlings and Tree Sparrows, 6 Serins, 2 Stonechats, a Spanish Wagtail, 2 Nightingales and a Little Ringed Plover.
Photos: Sierra de Guadarrama.
Early morning around the hotel produced a Wren, a Blackcap,
a Nightingale, a Red Squirrel, 2 Serins, 2 Crag Martins and a Black Redstart.
We left Miraflores and headed south soon seeing a Hoopoe and 3 Azure-winged Magpies. We stopped several times on the drive to Avila seeing 3 Lesser Kestrels, a Southern Grey Shrike, 9 Red Kites, Wheatears, a Kestrel, 2 Rock Buntings, a Cuckoo, Serins, 3 Woodlarks, a Jay, 2 Booted Eagles, 2 Golden Orioles, a White Stork, 4 Ravens and in one place a flock of 11 Griffon Vultures circling over the road.
After a look around the walled city of Avila, we found a place a short distance away to break for lunch, while watching 2 Calandra, 14 Short-toed and 4 Thekla Larks, 4 Hoopoes, a Tawny Pipit, a Melodious Warbler and our first of 5 Black Kites.
During the journey south we also saw lots of Corn Buntings and Wheatears, 3 more White Storks, 2 Little Ringed Plovers,
3 Kestrels, a Tree Sparrow, 6 Stonechats, a Cuckoo, and a Black-headed Bunting by Laurel Tucker.
Green Woodpecker later to become Iberian Green Woodpecker.
As we neared the Sierra de Gredos we stopped to look at 3 Red-legged Partridges, also seeing 3 Ortolan Buntings; near the highest point was a Black-eared Wheatear, 9 Rock Buntings and around 20 Crag Martins.
The descent from the mountains to Arenas is spectacular and for the most part follows an old Roman road, we continued to our hotel in Candeleda; situated by a fast flowing river, some of us decided to explore the area before dark. We saw 3 Dippers, a pair of Grey Wagtails, 3 Nightingales, Serins, a Blackcap and 2 Cetti's Warblers, then on our way back a bright yellow bird landed on a telegraph pole ahead of us, it had a black hood and was bunting shaped, a Black-headed Bunting, it didn't stay on view for long before flying into nearby bushes, from where it sang, we stayed for sometime but it didn't show again.
Obviously a rare bird for Spain, at this time of year this eastern Mediterranean breeding species would be arriving in numbers from its wintering grounds in India and southeast Asia and could have easily over-shot, although they are kept in captivity, but this was an odd place for an escaped bird to turn up. I did send the record in to the Spanish Ornithological Society but got no reply!
The overnight rain persisted into the morning, after breakfast the rain eased and we spent an hour birdwatching along the valley behind the hotel; the first spot was where the Black-headed Bunting had disappeared the previous evening, but there was no sign of it. We did see 2 Dippers, a Grey Wagtail,
10 Nightingales, 4 Wrens, 2 Blackcaps, several Serins and Goldfinches, 2 Ravens, 2 Cetti's Warblers and a male Blue Rock Thrush.
We left the hotel travelling south to Pantano de Rosarito, over the reservoir we saw 6 Black Terns, by the water's edge a Red Kite sat in a tree, in the scrubby margins there were 5 Sardinian Warbler, 3 Hoopoes one of which was carrying food to a nest in a wall, 11 Bee-eaters, 3 Iberian Woodpeckers, 4 Crested Larks, a Woodlark, lots of Nightingales, Serins, 2 Crag Martins, a Southern Grey Shrike, a Booted Eagle, a Black Kite, 7 Azure-winged Magpies were seen well and we had excellent views of a Great Spotted Cuckoo.
We continued west and found a spot by the River Tietar to break for lunch, a beautiful area with a profusion of flowers and lots of birds.
Here we saw 6 Blackcaps, again lots of Nightingales, a Common Sandpiper, a Little Ringed Plover, 3 Woodlarks, several Serins, 9 Azure-winged Magpies, 3 Cuckoos, 3 White Storks, 2 Ravens, a Cirl Bunting, a Mistle Thrush, 4 Bee-eaters, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, 3 Kingfishers, 2 Sardinian Warblers, a Jay, 2 Long-tailed Tits, lots of Corn Buntings, a Spotted Flycatcher, 2 Cetti's Warblers, a Grey Wagtail and 2 Hoopoes.
After lunch on our way to Trujillio we explored an area along a very bumpy track, which seemed to go on for ever, seeing 5 Woodchat Shrikes, 3 Southern Grey Shrikes, lots of Azure-winged Magpies and Bee-eaters, 5 White Storks, 3 Buzzards,
4 Little Bustards, 3 Cuckoos, 3 Hoopoes, 2 Black Kites, a Redstart, a Red Kite, a Montagu's Harrier, 3 Lesser Kestrels, 2 Sardinian Warblers and a Wryneck.
Photo: Bee Orchid.
We spent most of the morning in Trujillio looking around the impressive central square and the old Moorish fort, at least 18 White Storks were sat on nests on the rooftops now and again bill-clapping, 12+ Lesser Kestrels flew to and from their nest holes, Hoopoes could be heard everywhere, we saw 7, and there were lots of Swifts, Jackdaws and Spotless Starlings, also Swallows, House Martins and 3 Red-rumped Swallows.
Later we left to visit Montfrague Natural Park, on the way seeing 2 Buzzards, 6 Rollers, 10+ Hoopoes, a Black Kite, a Red Kite, 9 Griffon Vultures, 2 Turtle Doves, 4 Bee-eaters, lots of Chaffinches and Crested Larks, 2 Woodchat Shrikes, a Raven and lots of Azure-winged Magpies.
On our drive through the park we saw an Orphean Warbler, 20 Crag Martins, 7 Black Vultures, 8 Black Storks, 10 Blue Rock Thrushes, 6 Rock Buntings, 7 Ravens, 13 Black Kites, Serins,
2 Alpine Swifts, 4 Egyptian Vultures, 2 Blackcaps, lots of House Martins, 12 Nightingales, around 50 Griffon Vultures, a Peregrine, Bee-eaters, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, 4 Black Wheatears, 5 Short-toed Eagles, 2 Woodchat Shrikes, 2 Buzzards, a Honey Buzzard, 5 White Storks, a Hoopoe, a Cuckoo, a Woodlark, a Golden Oriole, 2 Booted Eagles, 3 Great Reed Warblers, a Cetti's Warbler, 7 Red-rumped Swallows, 2 Red-legged Partridges, at least 10 Sardinian Warblers and 2 Mistle Thrushes.
On the drive back to Trujillio we saw 3 Spanish Sparrows, a Pied Flycatcher and a Little Owl.
Photo: Lesser Kestrel at Trujillio.
An early start to explore the grasslands west of Trujillio around Santa Marta de Magasca, it wasn't long before we saw the first of 23 Little Bustards in this area, also 2 Whinchats, 3 Stone Curlews, 2 Great Spotted Cuckoos, 13 Rollers, 4 Golden Orioles, 8 White Storks, 6 Lesser Kestrels, 3 Southern Grey Shrikes and 9 Montagu's Harriers.
Then we caught sight of a large flock of sandgrouse disappearing over a rise, following we found 7 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, a new bird for me, and 50+ Black-bellied Sandgrouse feeding in a field.
Single vultures had been seen all morning, but as we watched the sandgrouse more appeared until there was a flock of 42 Griffon Vultures circling above us.
Also in this area we saw 3 Black Vultures, 13 Calandra Larks, 2 Short-toed Larks, 4 Hoopoes, a Buzzard, a Woodchat Shrike, 4 Red Kites, a Kestrel, 2 Crested Larks, 2 Ortolan Buntings, 7 Bee-eaters, a Little Owl, 3 Turtle Doves, 3 Red-legged Partridges, 3 Azure-winged Magpies, a Common Sandpiper, 4 Sardinian Warblers, 2 Ravens, Serins and Swallows, 4 Red-rumped Swallows and a Spanish Sparrow.
In the afternoon we drove south to an area known as the Rio Salor Plain and on a walk through the grassland had excellent views of a Great Bustard, seeing another in flight. Also, we saw 27 Azure-winged Magpies, 30+ Calandra Larks, 5 Short-toed Larks, 4 Little Bustards, a Montagu's Harrier, 3 Stone Curlews, 4 Southern Grey Shrikes, 6 Rollers and c130 Cattle Egrets.
On an evening visit to the square in Trujillio there were at least 50 Lesser Kestrels, 8+ Alpine Swifts, 50+ Swifts and 6 White Storks.
We left Trujillio and headed south to the Coto Donana, stopping when we sighted anything of interest, seeing 4 Rollers, 2 Southern Grey Shrikes, several White Storks, 22 Cattle Egrets, 2 Black Kites, 3 Turtle Doves, 14 Little Bustards, 5 Montagu's Harriers, 4 Lesser Kestrels, 5 Hoopoes, 3 Cuckoos, 4 Black-bellied Sandgrouse, 10 Calandra Larks, 2 Great Spotted Cuckoos, 2 Golden Orioles, Bee-eaters, Azure-winged Magpies, 3 Woodlarks, 2 Woodchat Shrikes, a Spotted Flycatcher, Nightingales, lots of Crested Larks, a Quail, 2 Melodious Warblers and an Olivaceous Warbler.
We had enough time to stop at El Rocio Bridge before continuing to our hotel in Matalascanas, where we saw 11 Little Egrets, 2 Great Reed Warblers, 2 Reed Warblers, 17 Black-winged Stilts, 2 Grey Herons, 4 Red-crested Pochard, 2 Pochard, 2 White Storks, a Little Grebe, 6 Common Sandpipers and heard 1 Grasshopper and 2 Savi's Warblers.
Photo: Gum Cistus, common roadside flowers.
A day spent in and around the Coto Donana National Park, we had permission to visit the area by the old palace inside the park; from the hide overlooking the marsh we saw lots of Cattle Egrets, 7 Grey Herons, Spoonbills, Little Egrets, great views of a Little Bittern, 2 Black-winged Stilts, 2 Lapwings, 2 Redshank, 2 Little Ringed Plovers, Coot, Mallard, at least 42 Red-crested Pochard, 6 Moorhens, 11 Little Grebes, lots of Whiskered Terns, 2 Hoopoes, 4 Melodious Warblers, a Cetti's Warbler, 12 Great Reed Warblers, Reed Warblers, a Sedge Warbler, 4 Olivaceous Warblers, 5 Garden Warblers, 2 Golden Orioles, Nightingales, a Southern Grey Shrike, 4 Marsh Harriers, 2 Booted Eagles, 22 Black Kites, 9 Red Kites and a brief but clear view of an Imperial now called Spanish Eagle as it landed and sat in the top of one of the trees. We also saw 3 Wild Boar and around 3 Fallow Deer.
Leaving the reserve we drove the short distance to the visitor centre at El Acebuche where we had lunch, in the company of a tethered, tame Griffon Vulture; after, visiting the hide overlooking the lagoon, where we saw 4 adult and 13 juvenile Pochard, excellent views of a Purple Heron and a brief sighting of a Purple Gallinule or Swamphen, a new bird for me.
Towards evening we returned to El Acebuche and had excellent views of the Purple Gallinule and a Little Bittern, also seeing a Water Vole
Overnight rain continued into the early morning, during a clear spell we went for a walk in the scrubby area along the beach east of the hotel, seeing at least 7 Sardinian Warblers, 4 Dartford Warblers, 5 Turtle Doves, lots of Serins, 2 Garden Warblers, 3 Crested Larks, a Red Kite and several Yellow-legged Gulls.
By mid morning the rain had stopped and we set off for the saltpans at Huelva, the older saltpans held a mixture of waders and we saw c16 Kentish Plovers, 20+ Dunlin, several Little Stints, c20 Curlew Sandpipers, as well as 10 Fan-tailed Warblers, 14 Sardinian Warblers, 9 flava wagtails, 28 Grey Wagtails and 22 Little Egrets. Nearer the coast there were around 80 Little Terns, 40+ Redshank, about 250 Grey Plovers, 16 Ringed Plovers, a Common Sandpiper, 4 Marsh Harriers, c80 Knot, a Greenshank, 14 Oystercatchers, 10 Sanderling, 10 Turnstone, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits, a Curlew, a large flock of roosting Yellow-legged Gulls and amongst them a Gannet.
Later, we found a long, drivable breakwater, in fact it proved to be 10 kilometers long, and from it we saw more of the same plus, 5 Sandwich Terns, a Common Tern, a Lesser and 6+ Greater Black-backed Gulls, a Whimbrel, a Wheatear and flocks of Black Terns hovering and dipping in the water, we counted 191 in total, but the big surprise was a Razorbill quite close in on the sea. We also saw a Hoopoe, a Cuckoo, 2 Dartford Warblers, 3 Bee-eaters, a Buzzard, 6 Pallid Swifts and several Black Kites. We returned the same way stopping to view a colony of around 200 Spoonbills.
We left Matalascanas to drive to Seville, stopping briefly at El Rocio Bridge where there were 2 Woodchat Shrikes, a Whimbrel, a Common Sandpiper, at least 10 Black-winged Stilts, Little Egrets, Reed Warblers, 5 Red-rumped Swallows, 2 Gull-billed Terns, 2 Whiskered Terns, a Little Ringed Plover, 2 Nightingales, 5 Red-crested Pochard, Serins, a Red Kite and a Marsh Harrier.
Most of the rest of the day was spent sightseeing in Seville, before continuing to our hotel in Rota.
An early start to visit the Bonanza Saltpans, we had been given permission to walk around this privately owned area, seeing 500+ Greater Flamingoes, 100+ Sanderling, 300+ Avocets, lots of Redshank, 2 Little Ringed Plovers, a Grey Plover, 3 Kentish Plovers, 200+ Dunlin, 7 Black-winged Stilts, 50+ Curlew Sandpipers, a Collared Pratincole, Little Egrets, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits, 40+ Knot, a Common Sandpiper, a Greenshank, a Spotted Redshank, 2 Red-crested Pochard, 7 Black Terns and a flock of 12 Slender-billed Gulls.
In the ditches around the saltpans were hundreds of Fiddler Crabs and over distant woods we counted 14 Black Kites; in the adjacent scrub were 7 Spanish Wagtails, 2 Fan-tailed Warblers and we had good views of at least one Spectacled Warbler, and found 4 Lesser Short-toed Larks, a new bird for me.
Lunch was taken at Laguna de Medina where we could eat and watch the birds on the lake, here we saw a pair of Garganey, Mallard, Pochard, 2 Red-crested Pochard, 3 Gadwall, 10 Black Terns, 5 Great Crested Grebes, a Little Grebe, but no White-headed Ducks.
There was also a Little Ringed Plover, a Common Sandpiper, a Green Sandpiper, 4 Kentish Plovers and 6 Black-winged Stilts. In the reedbeds 3 Reat Reed Warblers, 7 Nightingales and a Cetti's Warbler, also 6 Fan-tailed Warbers and 2 Pallid Swifts.
Greater Flamingoes at Bonanza.
We left our hotel in Zahara and had a look around the fields inland, seeing lots of Corn Buntings and Fan-tailed Warblers, several Nightingales, Sardinian Warblers, Stonechats and Crested Larks, 2 Calandra Larks, lots of Cattle Egrets, a small flock of 10 Griffon Vultures which swooped low overhead and landed in a nearby field, 3 Montagu's Harriers, 4 Turtle Doves and a White Stork.
On the mountain road to Algeciras we saw 3 Golden Orioles, lots of House Martins and Stonechats, a Greenfinch, a Montagu's Harrier, 6 Woodchat Shrikes, a Cuckoo, Serins, Sardinian Warblers, a Black Redstart, 2 Spotted Flycatchers, a Pied Flycatcher, Great Tits, 4 Blackcaps, 26 Griffon Vultures,
3 Tawny Pipits, 2 Black-eared Wheatears, 2 Linnets, 4 Crag Martins, 2 Short-toed Eagles, Blue Tits, 3 Woodlarks, a Jay, a Long-tailed Tit, 2 Olivaceous Warblers, a Wren, a Red-rumped Swallow, a Pallid Swift, a Cetti's Warbler and hearing our first Iberian Chiffchaff.
Later, on the way to Ronda we saw 6 Bee-eaters, 3 Woodchat Shrikes, 6 Griffon Vultures, a Whinchat, 2 Alpine Swifts, Pallid Swifts, 5 Lesser Kestrels, a Short-toed Eagle, 3 Booted Eagles and 5 Buzzards.
Photo: Black-eared Wheatear.
An early morning visit to the impressive, steep-sided gorge which separates the two parts of Ronda, where we had excellent views of 4 Chough, 18 Crag Martins, Jackdaws, Rock Doves and Pallid Swifts, 2 Grey Wagtails, 6 Rock Sparrows, a new bird for me; 2 Blue Rock Thrushes, 2 Alpine Swifts, 20 Bee-eaters, a Lesser Kestrel and a Peregrine.
After breakfast we set off for Grazalema in the Sierra del Pinar, stopping along the way, seeing a Woodchat Shrike, Wrens, Nightingales, Stonechats, Blue and Great Tits, Blackbirds, Woodpigeons, Chaffinches, Serins, 3 Jays, hearing a Tawny Owl, 3 Subalpine Warblers, 3 Woodlarks,
13 Griffon Vultures, hearing 2 Willow Warblers and a Firecrest, a Mistle Thrush, an Olivaceous Warbler and 2 Blackcaps.
From Grazalema we took the mountain road towards Zahara stopping at the highest point, in this area we saw a Black Redstart, 2 Ravens, 2 Blue Rock Thrushes, 7 Rock Buntings, 3 Peregrines, around 40 Chough, 6 Red-legged Partridges, 13 Griffon Vultures, 2 Jays, 10+ Bee-eaters, 2 Red-rumped Swallows, 3 Golden Eagles, 3 Egyptian Vultures, an Iberian Woodpecker, 5 Black-eared Wheatears, a Subalpine Warbler, 8 Sardinian Warblers, a Cuckoo, an Alpine Swift, 8 Lesser Kestrels, 2 Black Wheatears and eventually, after a long wait, at 7.30 in the evening excellent views of 2 Bonelli's Eagles.
Our last full day in Spain, from Ronda we headed north towards Cordoba, stopping on the way, seeing a Little Owl, 2 Cetti's Warblers, lots of Jackdaws, 3 Egyptian Vultures, Nightingales, 6 Crag Martins, 14 Alpine Swifts, Swifts, Rock Doves, 4 Bee-eaters, lots of Corn Buntings and Crested Larks, 6 Griifon Vultures, 6 Lesser Kestrels, lots of House Martins, Serins, 7 Mallard, a Peregrine, 28 Gull-billed Terns, 3 Ortolan Buntings, a Hoopoe and Fan-tailed Warblers.
We stopped for lunch at the Salinas de Fuente de Piedra, where there were 300+ Greater Flamingoes, 8 adult Avocets with 4 juveniles, 4 Black-winged Stilts, 10 Gull-billed Terns, 10 Black Terns, c20 Black-headed Gulls, 10 Calandra Larks, 4 Spanish Wagtails, a White Stork, 4 Kentish Plovers, 4 Little Ringed Plovers, a Dunlin, an Alpine Swift, Fan-tailed Warblers, 6 Short-toed Larks, 2 Whinchats and 6 Buzzards.
Then north to the Laguna de Zonar where we had prolonged good views of 8 White-headed Ducks, a Little Bittern in flight, 2 Turtle Doves, Serins,
a Cuckoo, Nightingales, Great Reed and Reed Warblers, Mallard, 2 Pochard, 6 Great Crested and 2 Little Grebes. We continued to Cordoba.
An early start to reach Seville Airport on time for our flight home, along the way seeing lots of the commoner birds and a Montagu's Harrier.