Triumph at Trafalgar

We’ve just returned from a short birding break to the Cadiz region of Spain, including the area around Cape Trafalgar – scene of a previous great victory, by a former Norfolk resident! We flew with Ryanair from Stansted to Jerez, got the hire car from the very reasonable and efficient Gold Cars and stayed for five nights at the excellent Las Magaritas hostel in Terifa. Our trip was timed primarily for raptor migration – actually the weather this year wasn’t particularly conducive to large raptor movement, but we did catch up with most of the local specialities as well as visiting a couple of new birding sites. We bumped into John Cantelo, local British birder and blogger, at La Janda who kindly provided up to date information on what was around – well worth visiting his website if you are planning a trip to the region. Highlights from a bird list of over 160 included, Rufous Bush Robin, Black Stork, Calandra Lark, Black-winged Kite, Olivaceous Warbler, Red-necked Nightjar, White-headed Duck, Collared Pratincole…oh and that Tern – read on for details! We were also lucky enough to be in Tarifa for Feria and the fascinating procession of the Vergen de la Luz.

First up, although the weather wasn’t conducive to large raptor movement, there was plenty of ‘visible migration’ going on – the main species involved being  Honey Buzzard, Booted Eagle and Black Kite with smaller numbers of Montagu’s Harrier, Short-toed Eagle, Sparrowhawk, Egyptian Vulture and Red Kite. This adult Short-toed Eagle came closer than most. For more raptor photos see my Terrific Tarifa post, April 2012.


There was also a strong passage of White Stork – this being a small part of one of the migrating flocks


There were plenty of interesting ‘small birds’ to keep up our interest, this male Black-eared Wheatear for instance


or this Melodious Warbler, near Banalup


and this Short-toed Lark on the beach at Los Lances


Now, turning to the ‘Bird on a wire’ section – first, Zitting Cisticola


A male Lesser Kestrel on the road to Sanctuario de la Luz – look closely and you can just see the definitive id feature of white ‘toe-nails’!


Juvenile Woodchat Shrike


and a ‘bonus bird’, in the cattle compound at Los Lances, Rufous Bush Robin


The wetlands of La Janda, just inland from Tarifa, are always good value – this Black Stork dropped in whilst we were searching through the waders on one of the flooded rice fields


This juvenile Collared Pratincole was also close by


Not the Little Swift at Chipiona we were hoping for but a free-flying Peach-faced Lovebird (not yet on the Spanish list though I’m afraid!)


Finally, that  tern or terns I was telling you about. Having visited the beach at Tarifa more times than I care to remember, including at least six times on this trip, looking for Lesser Crested Tern, a speculative visit to the beach at La Reyerta, around lunchtime on 11th, finally turned up trumps…. well sort of!! Two ‘orange billed’ terns, an adult and a first winter bird (yellow legs) where ‘loafing’, along with a few hundred mixed terns and gulls, at the mouth the Guadalquivir. Good candidates for Lesser’s perhaps…. but as Elegant Tern, which are pretty similar, have bred recently in Spain, they can’t be ruled out. For additional photos, see ‘La Reyerta orange billed tern gallery’ on this blog.

Authoritative sources in Spain now say that these birds are the male and youngster of a pair which bred in Albufera de Valencia, this year and which have been roaming the Cadiz area for a number of weeks. The male was first ringed in Marismas del Odiel, Huelva (SW Spain) on 8 October 2002 as a Lesser Crested Tern, but when it was re-trapped in 2006, it’s  identity was questioned, DNA was taken and the identity awaits confirmation – though is leaning towards Elegant. The mother was an Elegant Tern and therefore the youngster is considered by most to be genetically pure enough to ‘tick’ as Elegant…which indeed I intend to do! This ‘orange billed’ tern id quest has been a bit of a mind-bender…I hope it’s a while before I see another one!

The birds in question…..







Fantastic birds – a real and unexpected triumph!

Post Script:  The Tarifa Feria or fair, combined with the procession of the Vergen de la Luz was a real added bonus.




3 comments on “Triumph at Trafalgar

  1. Gill Hirst says:

    Fab photos Trevor. Glad you are having such good times.

  2. Harry Hussey says:

    The juvenile shrike is a Woodchat, note the pale patch at the base of the primaries, the whitish-fringed median coverts, a hint of a pale rump showing (though marked with chevrons) and so on.

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