Autumn in Andalucia

There are few opportunities to get up close and personal with migrating Snake Eagles – Tarifa in September is your chance

We’ve just finished a week birding in Andalucia, our favourite autumn migration location, accompanied by our long-standing birding buddies Bob and Sue. We flew with Jet2 from Stansted last Friday but had to sit on the tarmac for a couple of hours before departure due to the French air traffic controllers strike. We eventually made it to Malaga and drove to our old town Tarifa apartment, arriving for supper. The following day we stayed local, visiting the beach at Los Lanches, La Pena raptor watch-point, the greatly improved salt marsh reserve at Barbate, finishing with a visit to La Handa to check on the extent of any flooded rice paddies. With generally unfavourable raptor migration conditions and little or no water on La Handa, the following day we opted for a trip out west to the Guadalquivir estuary area, including the Bonaza salt pans and the beach at La Jara. The next two days were a combination of raptor watching and looking for migrant passerines at a number of sites close to Tarifa. Our last two days were spent inland in the mountains of Los Alcornocales and Grazalema. As well as using local knowledge, built up over our many previous trips, this time we used the Crossbill Guide to Western Andalucia – co-authored by our good friend John Cantelo. His generosity of knowledge, advice and assistance for us is now captured in a book – packed with everything you need to know about the diverse wildlife of this great area. The book navigated us to several sites we’d never managed to find before and helped us identify plants and insects, previously overlooked – well done John.

By the end of the week we’d amassed a creditable total of 164 species, but with so many ‘stand out’ birding moments it’s hard to pick out the highlights. 16 raptor species from La Pena watch-point in one session – including an eye-level encounter with a Long-legged Buzzard and 235 Black Stork is definitely up there. Back in September 2013 we found a couple of Elegant Tern at the mouth of the Guadalquivir river – super-rare birds originating from the west coast of the Americas. We’ve been back several times without success but this week lightning struck twice – two Elegant Tern at La Jana! (for a fuller account see my next post covering ringing recoveries in Spain). Common Bulbul and Little Swift have a European toe-hold in Andalucia – we caught up with both species at their regular haunts. Other highlights included: White-headed Duck, Marbled Teal, Black-shouldered Kite, two dozen wader species, Audouin’s and Slender-billed Gull, Bonelli’s, Olivaceous and Spectacled Warbler and Rock Sparrow & Rock Bunting.

Booted Eagle – both phases – were in the skies above Tarifa from dawn to dusk
Black Kite were often the first raptors on the move – this one was snapped over our town apartment balcony
Honey Buzzard seemed more difficult to catch up with this year
Just a few of the hundreds of Black Stork which went through Tarifa in just a few days
Perhaps the ultimate highlight – one of two Elegant Tern found on the Guadalquivir estuary
Typical bird of the limestone uplands – Blue Rock Thrush
Slender-billed, Black-headed and Mediterranean Gulls – but which is which?
Two-tailed Pasha – took the prize for ‘best insect’
Greater Flamingo with friends – Black-winged Stilt and Redshank
Rock Sparrow (or Petronia to give it it’s proper name) aren’t always easy to find – there were dozens in Llanos de Libar

Just a flavour of the delights of an avian Andalucia autumn – until the next time.

This entry was posted in Birding.

2 comments on “Autumn in Andalucia

  1. […] were were enjoying temperatures in the mid-30’s whilst birding in southern Spain – see here for a blog post cover the highlights – we returned to winter in the UK! Yesterday at Cley we […]

  2. johncantelo says:

    It was good to bump into you on La Janda last month. Many thanks for your very kind words about me & the Crossbill Guide to Western Andalucia – much appreciated! Next time you’re out we must arrange to meet up and if you’re there in spring – the area’s not just good in autumn – you must come up to my house in Alcala de los Gazules for beer & tapas with Lesser Kestrels. I was out in Alcala for four weeks but only had access to a car for 12 days when guests were visiting. I ended up seeing 174 species but the total would have been 180+ had I gone up into the mountains (both of my two sets of visitors were keener on seeing raptor migration on the coast). Remarkably, that total included 7 Cadiz ticks including a lifer helped by finally getting out on a pelagic jaunt. The latter produced 4 ticks (Roseate Tern, European & Wilson’s Storm-petrels and Grey Phalarope), La Janda gave me a Pec Sand, eBird delivered an Ortolan (3 of them – my province bogey bird) and the Rio San Pedro (plus La Jara later) got me the lifer, Elegant Tern, John

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