Saturday 17 June 2023

The Spanish Tour for WINGS - Day 1 - 30th April 2023

29th April:

I only had a day back in the UK after Lesvos before heading off to Spain for the start of the WINGS countrywide tour.  I touched down in a sweltering Malaga and picked up the super smart Mercedes minibus and headed to the Hotel Zenit where we would be meeting the clients and John Muddeman.

I was ravenous and so took myself for a short walk around the block where supermarket provided me with rolls, bananas and some much needed water but of course there were birds too with both Common and Pallid Swifts around the rooves of the high rise houses above the narrow streets.

Serins, Spotless Starlings, Sardinian Warblers and Blackbirds sang from the Eucalyptus trees in the Seminary grounds where one of the adjoining houses was augmented with a kaleidoscopic display of recycled glass sculpture.



Dinner was taken with John and the ten guests from America at seven before a good night’s sleep.

30th April:

An early breakfast and then off convoying out of Malaga on our way west toward Gibraltar. The Swifts and local Monk Parakeets accompanied us out and soon White Storks were seen nesting on the majority of electricity pylons before we diverted down into La Linea de la Concepcion to the Parque Princesa Sofia in the shadow of the Rock itself.  The current serious drought had left the park in a very crispy state and the clear weather had prevented any real migrant fall from Africa.  Pallid Swifts were nesting in concrete pipes in a failed building construction while others zoomed up into the dead downward pointing fronts on the tall palm trees where they too were nesting.  It was good to hear the call at close quarters and was the first of many ‘new’ experiences that I gleaned from the trip.

Fold back power exit for a very Pallid Swift

Pallid Swift nest Palm

Jbel Tariq - I spy no Monkeys

Above us Honey Buzzards (56) and Black Kites (ten) steadily arrived over the top of the Rock and drifted east with a couple of Lesser Kestrels and Short-toed Eagle noted too.

Honey Buzzards - such variation

Down in the park itself we picked up a couple of singing Melodious Warblers, a Western Bonelli’s Warbler, two Pied Flycatchers and Blackbird but it was hard going. Much to my delight one of the local Tawny Owls gave itself up and sat disgruntled in a palm tree while the Blackbirds went nuts!  We explained to the Americans that despite it being a ‘common and widespread’ species we actually see daylight ones so rarely so it was a real treat.

Kevin holding the dog but no one holding the baby, as we helped some locals look at the Owl!

A very sleepy Tawny Owl

On again (after a cursory scan of Gibraltar for the Barbary Apes!) and east to the El Faro Hotel at Punta Secreta down on the Strait almost opposite the mighty Jbel Musa in Morocco.  It is worth remembering that the name it north side counterpart, Gibraltar is derived from the Arabic name for it of Jbel Tariq.

Jbel Musa

The lighthouse at Punta Carnero

We could not check in and so spent a very good hour watching raptors streaming in across the Mediterranean bottleneck and we quickly logged 58 Griffons, three immature Egyptian Vultures and Booted Eagles along with scolding Sardinian Warblers and a med Shag on the rocks below.

Booted Eagle



John popped off to lunch leaving us just up the road at the Punto del Carnero viewpoint where we all experienced some of the best views possible of arriving raptors.  Many came in just below us before climbing up the low cliffs beyond the yellow lighthouse to glide past at eye level.  It was the perfect crash course for the group and they were soon picking up their own Booted Eagles with gleaming headlights and Short-toes with their fat heads. At least 50 of the former (in all colours) and 18 of the latter were counted along with 150 Griffons, three more Egyptians, two surprise Cinerous Vultures, a female Marsh Harrier, male Sparrowhawk, high hunting Hobby, Black Stork and several close Black Kites.  Many other Kites and Honey Buzzards were taking the longer route much further out, straight at Gibraltar.  Two local Common Kestrels were giving tired incoming raptors grief while the Yellow-legged Gulls had a particular dislike for Short-toed Eagles.  A Slender-billed Gull and two immature Gannets passed off shore and around us there were singing Sardinian Warblers, Wrens, Blackcaps and Nightingales and Serin, Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Swallows, House Martins and Red-rumped Swallows milling around.


Cinerous Vultures

Egyptian Vultures

Booted Eagles

Booted Eagles

Honey Buzzard

Honey Buzzard

Black Kites

Black Stork

Lunch arrived and was gratefully consumed while a big fat Moorish Gecko watch us from a concrete block. The amount of flowers was surprising given the drought and were well attended by bees and a few White and Blue Butterflies.

Moorish Gecko

Centaurium tenuflorum - Slender Centaury

Convolvulus althaeoides - Mallow leaved Bindweed

Galactites tomentosus - Med Thistle

Hedysarum coronarium and a bee I am working on

Linum strictum - Upright Flax

Pallenis spinosa - Spiny Golden Star

Phlomis purpurea - Purple Jerusalem Sage

Oxythyrea funesta on Glebionis coronaria - Crown Daisy

Glebionis coronaria - Crown Daisy

Re-fuelled, we headed onwards to Tarifa to try foe the last remaining Common Bulbul around a town centre car park.  It was not to be but we did get scope views of a Turtle Dove which is never easy along with noisy Nightingales and hawking Lesser Kestrels that breed in the town.

Lesser Kestrel

There were a few more flowers too and with them a delightful Spanish Festoon and a gleaming male Cleopatra. I was very pleased to see the climbing Birthwort - Aristolochia baetica. 

Aristolochia baetica

Spanish Festoon

Spanish Festoon

Malva multiflora - Cretan Mallow

Carpocoris mediterraneus

It was very hot in the town so we moved on again towards Bolonia and then up to the Cueva del Moro (where I stopped nearly ten years ago and saw my first Two Tailed Pasha).  The views back along the coast were huge and the beaches and dunes were thronging with microscopic people.

The Roman ruins at Bolonia with Morocco beyond

Four Griffons were up on the cliffs and would mysteriously shuffle in and out of view while Ravens were attending a nest and Crag Martins were entering on of the gated caves.  Blue Rock Thrush and Rock Bunting were both singing from pinnacles and showed very well.  The latter were my first for quite a few years and such a smart bird.



Blue Rock Thrush


After some scenery shots we headed back towards our hotel adding the first Woodchat and some Cattle Egrets on the way along with two power gliding Monarch butterflies.

There was still time for a pre-dinner sea-watch from the hotel although we were not expecting to notes 12 Puffins and four Razorbills heading out of the Strait.  Seven Balearic and a single Yelkouan were also seen along with our first Lesser Black-backed Gull amongst the Yellow-legs and Whimbrel, three Turnstone, Common Sandpiper and a White Wagtail on the rocks below.

Dinner beckoned after a great introductory day in the field.

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