Scenario: One birder, alone, Colin Reid of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia spent 12 days birding southern areas of Spain. Starting and finishing in Seville, I visited areas like Grazelama, Tarifa and along the coast to Sanlucar and Cote Donana. I had limited success.
Transport: I flew Ryanair as the only direct option from Dublin, Ireland to Seville and back, with 20 kg check-in and 2 x carry-on bags – always necessary when carrying tripods and optics. They were reliable, friendly and efficient and I wouldn’t hesitate to use them again.
I hired a car from Alamo that was comfortable to drive and they replaced it when I damaged the original…..For navigation I had an iPad with the free MapsMe app which worked most of the time, but did lead me, inexplicably off the motorways – and back on again – at random points which I still don’t understand.
Accommodation: I camped. In all cases in privately run campsites. I don’t know if there are any others in Spain? There are plenty of campsites listed, but I found several were closed – and some appeared that way for some time – so be prepared for a last minute change of plans if you chose this option.
Internet access: WiFi was patchy and I resorted to my old favourite – McD’s to update my blog, check my emails, easy parking, coffee and air conditioning. The SIM card I had in my phone, purchased in Dublin, worked well and I had almost continuous signal at reasonable cost thanks to the lack of roaming charges in Europe.
Research: I had done a bit of research. I will admit now, I should have done more, but I thought I had enough data for my chosen wish list. I thought it’d be easier. Not EASY, but easier than it was. I used E-Bird for recent records and that helped a bit, but generally speaking the data wasn’t available in great quantity or quality.
I had warblers in mind – Subalpine, Spectacled, Dartford, Orphean, Melodious – you know the kind of thing? I had Egyptian Vulture in my sights, Red-necked Nightjar, Black-winged Kite, Black Wheatear, Red-knobbed or Crested Coot, Collared Pratincole, Audouin’s Gull, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Eurasian Scops Owl, Common Nightingale and even Rufous Bush Chat/Rufous-tailed Bush Robin. There was a lot to find!
I didn’t see them all, I’ll tell you now. In fact, I didn’t do very well at all, so maybe you should quit reading now? But maybe, just maybe there might be something of interest – and maybe a laugh or two - in the following…..
A few brief notes on driving in Spain:
1. If you live outside Europe it’s best to take an International Driving Permit. The car hire company don’t need it (well, they accepted my Australian License) but apparently it upsets the police if you don’t have one if they stop you. They didn’t, but I had one anyway.
2. Most of the roads I drove on this time (I had been in Spain earlier in the year mainly in the north) were narrow, twisting country roads with limited options to pull off and, where there was a space, a sharp drop off from the bitumen that made me wonder about the tyre damage I was sure to sustain.
3. I found the roads and driving in southern Spain much different from the northern (Catalonia) counterparts. Much harder and more aggressive. Whether this is because it’s an older part of Spain (?) or whether it’s just lack of maintenance and lack of interest (I suspect this is more realistic) I don’t know. Is it poorer? I would have thought tourism in southern Spain would have been huge and enough to maintain infrastructure, but I digress…..
4. And……….you need to drive on the right hand side of the road……..ALL the time.
Day 1 – Saturday 8.6.18
Up at 6, my sister very kindly drove me, sleepily, to the airport – then left me at the car in the Set Down Only zone while she ran inside to get coffees……only Lorraine! Self-bag-dropped easily enough (had checked-in on-line as you do with Ryanair or pay $55 at the airport) ….and headed to my usual (!) bar/café for a coffee.
At the gate at 9.45, boarded and left on time. Typical uneventful flight, we landed at Seville airport at 13.30 (local time, 1 hour ahead of Dublin). It was hot (26 degrees), bright & sunny.
Found my way to the car rental easily enough and picked up my transport from Alamo. Set up the iPad with MapsMe strapped to my right leg and headed south. I stopped a couple of times to have a smoke and check my messages before turning off my roaming data again. The only real thing of interest on the road was a Booted Eagle soaring overhead that I got a quick glimpse of.
Ran into a trail of traffic as a number of tractors towing or carrying what looked like gypsy caravans toiled slowly along the winding mountain road. It was a painful 30 minutes before I turned off and took the very windy mountain road up to Grazelama. It was a stunning mountainside village with craggy peaks as a backdrop and whitewashed houses along narrow winding streets. Very attractive.
Then it all started to go to shit! The campsite - Tajo Rodillo - just outside the town, where I had planned the next two nights, was closed. Jesus Christ in a tent.
I sort of panicked for a few minutes then resorted to my MapsMe app and asked it for camping in the area. It picked a number of places and I headed for the closest one, 15kms away, down the other side of the mountains. Got there and asked to camp for three nights. “No can do” was the response – or something like it, as he didn’t speak English and I don’t speak more than 3 words of Spanish. Turned out I could stay ONE night, but there was a group of school kids coming at midday the next day and he would be closed to everyone else so….. I retired to the car and again interrogated MapsMe.
It took me to another campsite 6 kms further away near El Bosque where I settled for the night. The owner spoke Spanish (!) and French – but that didn’t help much, but he was very friendly and welcoming.
Anyway it was a nice little campsite and I set up quickly. Next item – food and gas cylinders. I hadn’t seen anywhere along the road for either so far.
I asked MapsMe for the closest supermarket and ended up driving back to the village of the second aborted campsite attempt to find a small supermarket with all the food I could desire. I stocked up. Now for the gas cylinders.
I figured maybe a service station would have them? So MapsMe took me about 10 kms to a BP station which I thought would be the best option. It wasn’t. It was a one-man show with a hut about the size of a toilet and he wasn’t helpful at all. Looked like cold food for the time being. I returned to camp and had a yogurt. It was so nice I had another one. Then plain white bread and cheese (no butter, it seemed pointless getting any in the heat with no refrigeration) and water to wash it down.
Then I went to the bar in the campsite where a young dude made me a grande café con letche – or large coffee with milk. See? I can speak Spanish when the desperation gets bad enough! It was heaven at E1.20. If I only had gas cylinders my world would be complete – well, today, here, it would be.
I was a bit knackered, but thought I really needed to do some birding. The evening was cooling but there was still a couple of hours of daylight left so I wandered up the road finding that I was, in fact, on the edge of the National Park – Parque Natural – which was great!
Griffon Vultures overhead, Collared Doves, Common Blackbirds and House Sparrows in abundance, but I also had, nearly stood on, a Sardinian Warbler picking up damaged insects off the road like a Robin, a brief view of a White Stork in flight and a new Spanish tick – Spotted Flycatcher. So it wasn’t all bad, just not super exciting. But then again I don’t think I could have handled anymore f……..g excitement.
Spanish list – 17 (New – 1)
Day 2 – Sunday 9.6.19
Another day – another disaster. Sometimes I wonder why I get up in the morning. I was up at 6, had a bowl of oats and warm milk and headed out. I got as far as the gate at the front of the campsite to find it closed.
Obviously the owner closed it at night – but it was not locked. Just have to open it. A big f…k off metal thing. I started to open it and found I had stopped the car too close, so walked back, got in the car, took off the handbrake and let the car roll backwards. That was my mistake. I didn’t close the driver’s door and it caught on a rock in a flower bed thing and I didn’t stop the car in time – only being half in it anyway. The door was bent beyond the tolerances built by the manufacture and there was a horrible metallic, squealing, grinding sound as it almost bent straight out.
After I had got over the shock of the thing, I found I could still close the door but couldn’t close the window – it just wouldn’t go up. That’s no good, thinks I. That means I can’t leave the car anywhere with all my stuff in it.
So – the only option was to go back to Seville and get another one.
First though I drove up to the 1,375 meter col along the Grazelama/Zahara road, the highest point around, reputedly good for Vultures including Egyptian, along with Black Wheatear & Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush.
I got there. It was cold and misty. There was nothing happening apart from a nice flock of ~40 Red-billed Choughs flying overhead. My heart wasn’t really in it but I persevered for an hour or so without anything else showing.
Headed back down stopping at a couple of likely places for nothing either.
Back at the campsite I checked out, explaining myself to the young guy, had a coffee and paid the $16 Euro for the previous night, I was on the road by 10.
100 kms later, having driven the whole way with the window wide open of course, I was in the airport – carpark. I took the wrong turn and was in the public carpark. I now had to PAY to get out. I found a carpark. I found a machine. It told me to pay 72 cents.
I gave it a 10 euro note and that was the last time I saw the 10 euro. It gave me a receipt and gave me back my ticket, but no change, thanks very much.
It also didn’t validate my ticket so I was still stuck in the f………g car park reversing away from the barrier…..
I found another car park – not easy!
Parked and this time paid the now E1.40 due. With a 2 euro coin. I got 60 cents change and a validated ticket and finally got the f..k out of there.
I drove around in circles for a while then finally found my way to the Alamo car return. (During the drive I did see two Black Kites (new for Spain for me), Cattle Egrets and a Glossy Ibis).
The girls were very nice, gave me a new car and told me they’d have to take the 1,100 Euro excess – about $1800. If it costs less we’ll give you back the balance, she said.
I don’t think I’ll see much of a refund but I’ll try to claim it back from my travel insurance.
I drove back to El Bosque and the campsite - to find no one home and the barrier blocking access. Jesus CHRIST!!
By now desperate for a coffee, I drove the 18km twisting road to Grazelama and had two in the main square along with loads of tourists and locals enjoying their Sunday afternoon in the sun. I tried to find gas cylinders too, but the only mountain supply shop in the village was closed.
So, back up to the col again. Several Griffon Vultures and two female Spanish Ibex. I walked a track off the road but saw only a lone Sardinian Warbler. It was very windy and everything was laying low, I guess.
Back down the road to El Bosque again stopping to take photos of butterflies as that was all I could find of interest.
Back at the campsite the young guy was there – I woke him up banging on the front door - and I checked in and set up camp in the same spot.
As I walked back to my site from the toilet I noticed a camp chair abandoned beside the bin – presumably left by the group who had been on site the night before. I checked. It still worked OK, if a little ratty and very low to the ground. I figured it was better than nothing and took it away with me.
By this time I was just exhausted from stress so sat for a while in my new chair, then had a can of meatballs – straight from the can as I couldn’t cook them - and a yoghurt.
It was after 19.30 and so I headed back up the gorge road towards ol’ Grazelama stopping at likely spots for, again, nothing. Oh I did have a pair of Cirl Buntings but that was it. I waited at the top till the sun went down then tried owling at a couple of spots. I did get a response from a Tawny Owl - distant - and another one was calling near the campsite. That was it – what a day, what a disaster. Oh well, onwards and upwards!
Spanish list – 33 (New – 2)
Day 3 – Monday 10.6.19
I didn’t see much point in getting up too early as yesterday had been pretty quiet so it was 7.45 before I headed out after another cold breakfast. I drove straight up to the col and walked a track up towards exposed rock hoping for Black Wheatear or Rock Thrush. I saw neither – but did get a family party of Iberian Chiffchaffs and Black Redstarts. I also took photos of a black Bumblebee – similar to the ones I saw in February further north - and a small butterfly that looked interesting.
I sat for a while on a rock and the vultures started to appear around 9.00 as the thermals picked up.
A number of European Griffin Vultures circled fairly close, then in the distance 2 Egyptian Vultures appeared. Unfortunately, they were some distance away and circled lazily before drifting through the pass below.
Back at the carpark I noticed a water filled horse trough thing in the field below and several birds visiting. I sat for an hour and saw European Serins, a female Blackcap, Sardinian Warblers, a Common Linnet, Black Redstart, Great & Blue Tits, a couple of Rock Buntings, Goldfinches and a female Subalpine Warbler. I saw more birds in that hour than I’d seen in two days.
I had to go at 11.15, but the wind had picked up and was getting stronger anyway. Back at the campsite I broke camp and checked out, getting on the road by 12.30.
A two hour drive through the countryside’s winding, twisting roads saw me at my next destination, a caravan park in the area of the corkwoods, Los Alcornocales, just north of the small village of Jimena de la Frontera. It wasn’t the place I had targeted, (I later discovered it was closed, in fact it had been completely abandoned) but it was fine. I checked in, set up my tent and relaxed for a while watching 4 European Bee Eaters on wires across the field.
I still wanted to get the gas cylinders and as it was very windy and quite hot I drove half an hour to a nearby town, Gaucin, and looked there in the garage and a hardware store – no luck. The supermarket was closed till 17.30 so I sat out the hour and a half in a couple of cafes and wandered around the streets until it opened and I picked up some fruit.
Back at camp again and the wind was blowing something awful. Had my first Spanish shower and shave then a coffee in the café attached while I sorted my photos etc. I didn’t feel particularly welcome – probably because I only asked for coffee – so retired to the toilet to charge my laptop and type this up.
As I stepped out of the toilet two Red-rumped Swallows flew overhead. My first European RRS’s but easily distinguishable despite the lack of bins or camera.
I ended up going to bed around 21.30 cause I was tired, it was windy and there wasn’t much else to do. I watched a downloaded show on my iPad and crashed.
Spanish list – 45 (new – 5) Lifers – 2 New European - 1
Day 4 – Tuesday 11.6.19
A frustrating day which made me doubt any abilities I may have thought I had as a birder. It was windy most of the night, but fairly calm come morning. I left the campsite at 8.30 and headed for a couple of sites described in the Where to find birds book.
The first was a location just north of San Roque, about 25 kms south of my starting point. The problem was the new roads built since the book was written.
I was looking for a road marker KM 86 on the A 405 – but never got above KM 45 and kept getting shunted off the A 405.
After a couple of hours of U-turns, back-tracking, swearing, cursing other drivers for crawling up my ass, screaming at the lovely lady on Maps Me who patiently re-directed me endlessly, but sometimes needlessly. Slight right, slight left, enter the roundabout, take the third exit, slight right, slight left, slight left – all without a breath. While I am driving on the wrong side of the manual car, on the wrong side of the freaking road, with no one to navigate….Jesus F………g Christ!! I mean she even told me about bends in the road when it was obvious I just had to stay ON the road. I wonder if it would be any different if it was a male voice? Slight left, slight right – ALL F……..G RIGHT!! Like being married really.
Anyway. I did eventually find a ‘gate’ on the side of the road with minimal pull-in space, managed to park the car and walked in. By now, of course, the f……..g wind had picked up again and it was hot and glary…… the heat I could handle – it was only about 22 and dry - but the wind was a nightmare.
With my sight I need to have relatively still conditions otherwise I have no f………g hope of seeing a bird in a leafed tree. With my hearing I have little or no chance in the wind. In reality I have little or no chance without the f………g wind, but that’s another story. Mr H had suggested that I use earpods with my Tascam recorder as the microphones are very sensitive and I would be able to hear birdcalls with that, where normally I would be oblivious. Great idea! And it worked well. But……..there’s always a ‘but’.
I don’t KNOW what the birds I hear are. And I can’t locate them with the recorder any better than with my ears.
And with the wind? I can’t f………g hear anything ANYWAY! Jesus – some birder I am.
So, I walked in and found myself in sort of farmland with lots of thistles and scattered bushes and trees. It was supposed to be an area where Red-necked Nightjars could be seen (at dusk mind you – this was a sort of recce) around a stand of Stone Pines - and various other bits and pieces.
I don’t think I was in the right place ‘cause I never found the Stone Pines he talked about.
I did however, at least get a lifer – a pair of Woodchat Shrikes sat up very well for me. I know it’s not a high level lifer, but a lifer is a lifer and it was one I had looked forward to for a long time, thinking it was a really attractive bird – and it was.
I took photos of more butterflies, bumbled around in the wind for an hour or so then returned to the car. I had a brief Turtle Dove and a close view of a Short-toed Treecreeper which went somewhat towards mollifying my confidence.
There were also numerous White Storks sitting on their nests built on pylons alongside the road – the area is famous for them apparently.
I fired up Ms Maps Me again and headed for another spot, north of Los Barrios. On the way I stopped off and treated myself to a latte and stale chocolate croissant at a MacDonald’s – the first I’ve seen this trip.
Then it was on to The Devil’s Eye or The Cocked Hat Rock (apparently it resembles a bullfighter’s hat).
Cutting a lengthy story short. I didn’t see anything worthwhile. By now it was after midday and everything had shut down. Between the wind and the heat it was f…..d, so I headed ‘home’ and had a meal at the café in the caravan park – fresh salad, olives, bread, beer, venison and coffee (x2) and enjoyed every mouthful. I hadn’t realised just how hungry I was until I started eating and then I just hoovered it up without pause. My mother would have had conniptions at the speed of my eating. But God it was good – and all for about 12 euro (20 bucks)?
Afterwards I relaxed in the shade - out of the goddam wind. I’ll bet money that when I get to the coast tomorrow there won’t be a BREATH of wind – just when I want it for seawatching. Such is birding.
I didn’t do anything for the rest of the day, the wind persisted and the sun was hot. I just sat in the shade in my purloined chair.
Spanish list – 53 (new – 6) Lifers – 3 New European - 1
Day 5 – Wednesday 12.6.19
I was awake and up before 7, small breakfast and I headed out. The wind had dropped overnight and it was a very pleasant, cool, still, mountain morning.
I drove the upper road, the one I had come in on, towards Puerto de Galis stopping at likely spots and wandering down tracks etc. I saw very little in reality, although, through the recorder/earpiece I could hear birds calling. I did add Long-tailed Tit and Firecrest to the trip list, but I’m sure if Mr H had been there we would have 1. Listed them days ago and 2. Found more of interest than I did. It was a bit disheartening, but, I guess, you work with what you’ve got, my hearing isn’t going to get any better, in fact, it’ll only get worse, so…..move on!!
I stopped at the café at the crossroads at Puerto de Galis and had a coffee. There were about 10 middle-aged guys standing around their touring motorbikes – BMWs & Harleys – and they asked me to take their picture. They looked like they were enjoying themselves and I was sort of envious – riding a good motorbike in these hills, on these roads would be super cool.
I headed the 32 kms back to camp, took some photos of the European Bee Eaters – now 8 in the flock – in the field next door, packed up the tent and paid my way out – E30.
It was an easy 2 hour/150km drove down and along the coast to Rio Jara camping just west of Tarifa.
I walked the campsite, chose a site – with an electrical connection @ 3E/night extra – and set up camp again.
I had been wrong yesterday. I would have lost my money. It was still quite windy on the coast. Not sure if it’s a good wind or a bad wind - we’ll see.
I drove west – to Bolonia and, eventually, Zahara & Barbate. The cliffs above Bolonia are reputed to be a great site for White-rumped Swifts, apparently they breed in small numbers in the cave/s. I didn’t see any, but did have great views of Griffon Vultures on the cliffs. Zahara & Barbate were a bit of a waste of effort in the afternoon heat. I did see European Spoonbills and dozens if not a hundred or more Cattle Egrets to add to the trip list. I didn’t do a lot of stopping, apart from the Bolonia cliffs.
Then back to Tarifa and a quick drive around the town before visiting the Lidl store and picking up some more bread, cheese, olives and yoghurts. Back to camp and ate some as I was starving. Then I did very little for the rest of the day. Just seemed to be knackered.
Spanish list – 60 (new – 7) Lifers – 3 New European - 1
Day 6 – Thursday 13.6.19
I think I’m definitely getting too old for this shit. I got up at 7 after a fair night’s sleep, had a raw egg with coffee and sugar beaten up in milk for breakfast. Actually it went down surprisingly well! Might not bother ever buying gas again.
Walked the path from the campsite to the beach across a ‘protected area’ that was very well signposted, but very dried out, and contained bugger all apart from a handful of Kentish Plovers and a single Grey Heron on a small patch of water at the rear of the beach itself – the blocked off end of the Rio Jara river. The beach here was about 200 meters wide and the railed ‘path’ continued across half of it to stop people walking around potential beach breeding areas, I guess.
I had read that Audouin’s Gulls were ‘always on the beach’. Well, maybe, but not on 13th of June 2019. A handful of Yellow-legged and one or two Lesser Black-backed Gulls was all.
While I was walking back I noticed a stand of Stone Pines on the other side of the Rio Jara creek that flanks the campsite. I walked through and out of the camping ground and along a narrow track beside the main road to cross the creek on what appeared to be the remains of the old road and thence into the Stone Pines.
Man, they look good for Red-necked Nightjar! Very quiet, a little isolated due to the road changes and although there were a few walking tracks through the woods, little sign of disturbance or human interference. I only saw a couple of Spotted Flycatchers and a handful of European Goldfinches but definitely will revisit tonight at dusk - and bring along my optimism. I trudged back to the campsite, fired up the transport and headed for the narrow country roads on the other side of the main road.
I drove the roads for about two hours, probably started a bit late at 10.30, but saw plenty of Crested Larks (probably a Thekla’s or two), Corn Buntings, European Bee Eaters, two juv Woodchat Shrikes and a pair of Northern Wheatears.
It’s quite difficult to drive, watch the road and bird at the same time and there were few places, as usual, to pull over. When I DID see the Wheatears, as I came round a corner, by the time I pulled up they had vanished, that was when I found the Shrikes and the Bee Eaters were going off all around me – but I was parked on the road which wasn’t the best scenario, given my recent disaster with a rental. However, the road was very quiet – at one point I stopped and had a fag as a local herded about 80 goats ahead of me from one pasture to another – that’s how quiet it was.
I gave it away around 12.30 and headed back into Tarifa again. I found my way to the start of the boardwalk that runs through the sandy heath area between the beach and the main road – the same area I had walked straight across from the campsite first thing. I walked for about two thirds of its length, then back. Everything was very dry and I saw almost nothing at all. It had great promise in all the literature but maybe I’m here too late in the season? It doesn’t look like it was ever wet, but maybe it was earlier in the year? Anyway it was a complete waste of effort for me.
I needed some more smokes and by now a hot coffee was needed – preferably by direct injection. I found both – without an intravenous needle, mind you - while I wandered around the old town, tried for Common Bulbul in a car park Mr D had described – need to give it another go – and looked for those f….g A’s Gulls around the harbour, without success.
I had managed to park the 10 ft 6 inch long car in a 10 ft 8 inch parking space between two other cars, without causing anyone any damage, and I managed to get it back out again similarly which I was quite proud of.
The very fact that I managed to find the car again at ALL was a freaking miracle. I have a notorious bad sense of direction generally.
Back to camp and I put up the tarp for the first time for the improved shade and sat in my purloined chair for the rest of the afternoon.
I’m just drained. Maybe a coffee or three will perk me up – and a cold shower. I mean its hot – 24/25 degrees? But its dry heat and I’m used to it. I just wonder how I’ll go doing this for two months in the States later in the year….
I lay around the camp site until 20.00 then walked alongside the main road and back into the Stone Pines. The wind had dropped by now and it was very quiet and very still. I sat in the forest until 22.00. During my sit a Spotted Flycatcher paid a close visit and a pair of Whitethroats passed by. An Iberian Hare put in a very brief appearance, sitting for a few seconds 50 meters away, but that was it. Dusk sort of slowly arrived around 21.30 and I tried playback for a while without any sign of any nightjars never mind Red-necked.
Spanish list – 66 (new – 7) Lifers – 3 New European - 1
Day 7 – Friday 14.6.19
I was up and out by 7. Breakfast same as yesterday. A cool, grey, cloudy morning – and the wind had picked up again, now 20knots from the south-east.
I drove to a track that wound up the hillside from the main road towards one of the wind farms. Supposed to be a reliable site for Rufous Bush Robin, one of my really, really want targets.
I’m still really, really wanting it.
The track was quite birdy – Corn Buntings, Crested Larks and Common Stonechats a-plenty and millions of Sparrows. Did I mention the Sparrows?
The whole place is knee-deep in Sparrows. It’s Sparrow heaven. It’s chock-a-block with Sparrows. 99 out of 100 birds is a Sparrow – and the 100th was probably a Sparrow, but it flew away too quick to be sure. If the UK feels their Sparrow population is in danger – come over here and grab some! They wouldn’t be missed. There are more Sparrows than you could poke a thousand sticks at. I’m over Sparrows.
Further up the hill I found some Spanish Sparrows, they seem to be separated from the zillions of House Sparrows lower down – I didn’t blame them. I think there were quite a lot, but every time they flew up in a flock, they just blew away. I also saw a single Zitting Cisticola, my first of this trip and another Whitethroat.
I returned to the car and drove down another track on the opposite side of the road. An unsealed potholed track that ran through some flooded rice paddies and assorted agricultural stuff.
I had a flock of 50 (exactly! Funny how that works) Glossy Ibis – enough to send a UK birder into paroxysms of delight. I find them boring. But I went through them on the off chance there would be a Bald Ibis there. There wasn’t. The only other birds of any interest in the area were a flock of Northern Lapwings and 2 Black-necked Stilts. I was heading for an area for the possibility of Black-winged Kite, but never got there.
The track became progressively worse, even driving under 10 kms an hour and steering around the holes was too fast, until I came to a track-wide, soft-looking, sharp-edged hole and decided enough was enough and turned back.
I tried another track further along but gave it away after 100 meters or so as it deteriorated very quickly. Jesus.
OK, so I drove to Barbate via coffee in Zahara that cost me 2 euro to park claimed by some dude in a high viz vest and cap. I mean I was parking in the street, not an official carpark – WTF?
He looked like the town’s homeless person, but I paid him anyway – I suppose everyone has to make a buck somehow. The two coffees cost me 2 euro total so I guess it came out even in the end.
On to Barbate looking for the small flock of Bald Ibis that could, reputedly, be seen from the road feeding in the fields – maybe. Got to Barbate still BI-challenged of course, and went to Lidl to pick up some milk and bread. I’d shop in a local supermarket but:
1. they are just so hard to find and
2. parking near them is a f…..g nightmare.
Lidl is just easy. Back along the road to and past Zahara, still no BIs but I was losing interest fast. Back along the main road and turn off again, this time back to Bolonia. At the high point in the road a track off to the right went, first, to an official raptor watch-site, then on up the hill through rugged, rocky, thorny, dry habitat. Looked good for Bush Robins. Yeah, maybe, in another life. More freaking Sparrows, Stoners and Crested Larks. Oh, and three big dark grey pigs, I kid you not, that trotted up the road ahead of me. They looked like they’d been skinned. Pure grey they were, all over.
On to Bolonia and out to the cave for the Swifts.
Not a freaking Swift in sight. I mean not one, not even a Common Swift. And only one Griffon Vulture that put in a brief appearance before it too lost interest and flew away. That was it. I was finished. The wind was blowing a gale. The sun was glarey (although it was only 21 degrees) and I was depressed. I drove home, nearly rear-ending some clown on the main road who decided it was a great idea to turn left at 80 kms a hour without any warning. I sulked in my tent out of the wind for the rest of the afternoon.
Spanish list – 66 (new – 7) Lifers – 3 New European - 1
Day 8 – Saturday 15.6.19
I was up after a restful night by 7 and quietly had the breakfast of champions – a bowl of oats with cool milk (left out overnight), a cold coffee and a banana. Drove into Tarifa on the search for the Common Bulbul. I went early to avoid the crowds – and still had trouble finding the car park I had stumbled on the other day. There were a number of young males and females staggering along the road obviously going home from a big night out. I must be getting old cause this surprised me – well, it was 7.00 in the morning after all!
Anyway, I failed to find the carpark in the car, so found a parking place about 10 minutes walk away and worked my way through the old part of town which was being hosed down by the local cleaners.
I did find the parking area and I played for the bird. One appeared pretty quickly – as Mr D had described – so I got my ‘tick’ as the only Bulbul in Europe sat above me wondering where its new partner was.
I walked down to the harbour and half way across the causeway to the island checking out the Gulls but they all appeared to be Yellow-legged or Lesser Black-backs so gave it away and grabbed a coffee at the only open café on the harbour front. I did see a few Western Jackdaws – a this-trip-first – and confidently identified Pallid Swifts - which I have probably seen already this trip, but wanted to be certain before I listed them - around town as I moved through.
Then back to camp and packed up. Was on the road by 10 on a leisurely drive to Sanlucar – 125 kms further west along the coast. On the way I thought I’d try to find Bald Ibis again near Zahara where they were introduced in the hope they would breed. I couldn’t actually find the exact area but remembered reading in the paperwork of them being seen feeding at a golf club further along the main road. (I did see a Red Kite, another this-trip-first, over the road while I looked for the breeding site).
I didn’t really hold out much hope – I’m generally either not lucky, or just not good enough, to find things like that, but kept my eye open anyway. Surprisingly I found the Montenmedio Golf Club (near KM 42, not 41, as described in the book, but the gateways and signage are impossible to miss on the main road) and drove in to what appeared to be a very select country club with golf attached.
The gen had indicated that the birds fed ‘on the green beside the club house.’ The club house would have housed the population of a small country and the greens were immaculate – apart from the 11 Northern Bald Ibis spoiling the look with their ugly bald heads and scraggly ‘hair’. I was pretty pleased to have found them – but then a blind man could have found them so it wasn’t a particularly profound discovery. However, a lifer is a lifer, even if it is re-introduced. There were only 11 birds there – the same number mentioned in the paperwork that was 5 years old so breeding doesn’t seem to have been very successful.
I headed on west, reaching Sanlucar a couple of hours later, passing a small flock of Greater Flamingoes near Cadiz.
The area I wanted to bird was north of Sanlucar and all the camping areas I had researched appeared to be south of the town. So I drove first to the rough area of the birding ponds on the north side and checked for camping there – just in hope, in case I’d missed something. I hadn’t, there were none on that side of town, so I headed for the closest, south of town, 12 ks away. When I eventually got there – the roads were very slow, 30-40 ks/hr for the most part – I didn’t like the look of it. It appeared to be all caravans and open, unshaded sites close together, so I moved on to the second closest – Aquadulce, 22 kms away from the birding site – and checked in there.
I took my time putting up the tent and tarp to maximize the shade as it was pretty hot and I had nothing much else to do right away - and I was enjoying experimenting with the new tarp and its flexibility.
Then I just kind of hung out for the afternoon, as is becoming my habit, preferring to concentrate birding in the morning.
In the evening, when it had cooled down somewhat I walked the 150 meters to the beach – just for something to do. On the way a pair of Monk Parakeets perched up nicely and I saw my first Common Magpies of the trip! There was nothing to see at sea so I retired to bed early and watched a movie on my laptop.
Spanish list – 80 (new – 7) Lifers – 5 New European - 1
Day 9 – Sunday 16.6.19
Cote Donana at last. Up at 6.45 and watched the dawn as I drank a raw egg beaten up with coffee, milk and sugar. Then headed off around Sanlucar to avoid the slow roads and start birding at the Martin Miguel Ponds on the Ave Trebudena. Sounds grand? Actually a narrow, poor quality bitumen road running through dry scrub on the right and small farming plots on the left. The ponds themselves simply plastic lined holes in the ground with nothing on them at all. They are reputed to attract several species of duck and gulls - but not today. However a Black-crowned Night Heron rose up from the ditch on the other side of the road – a new European species for me – and a Red Kite passed by. There were also several Common Moorhens and Eurasian Coots in the ditch but nothing else of interest. I moved on.
And managed to find the access road to the Bonanza Ponds – amazing! (I mean it was amazing that I found the road with only one wrong turning.) Bonanza Ponds. I had been conjuring images of reed lined ponds of fresh water full of really interesting stuff. Hmmmmmm. They were in fact wide open, clay-banked salt ponds with a lot of empty water at times. However, two Squacco Herons (new Spanish sp) flew past in the first few minutes and the birds were there in number. Hundreds of Greater Flamingos, probably at least 50 Pied Avocets, some with chicks, some on the nest, Little Egrets everywhere, Cattle & Great Egrets on occasion, the odd Glossy Ibis, small numbers of Black-winged Stilts, Eurasian Spoonbills and Kentish Plovers.
A flock of gulls rose off a pond I hadn’t reached yet and headed lazily towards the river, 500 meters away. I scanned the flock and picked up out a slightly smaller immature gull with a distinct underwing pattern – Audouin’s Gull, at last. To say I was happy would be an overstatement. It wasn’t a long view, it was an immature and it was flying away. Not the way I had hoped to see my first AG, but maybe I’m being too fussy? A lifer anyway to start the day. I followed the main track out to a T-junction, turned right and drove slowly to the end of that to a sluicegate thing. From there I took a walk to check on flocks of Gulls a few hundred meters away. They were, in the main, Slender-billed Gulls, not new for me, but a very attractive Gull, I think. Some were showing the rosy underside glow of breeding birds. Too far away to get decent shots but great in the scope. Yellow Wagtails were going off – I might have been near a nest – and a single Whiskered Tern among a number of Little Terns (new Spanish sp for me), fished the adjacent channels.
Driving back along that stretch I saw a small bird land on a bunch of dead stuff. I got it in the bins for a second or two and thought it was a Whitethroat – but I know now it was a Spectacled Warbler. It wasn’t a lifer anyway – I have it ticked from another life – probably France in the ‘70s.
I drove a little more on the same tracks seeing basically the same birds, then reached a point I wasn’t willing to take the car beyond.
I turned back and headed for the Pinar de Monte Algaida – the pine woods at the end of the road through the village of Algaida. There was a pond, Laguna de Tarelo, that seemed worth a visit and I walked to it from the carpark. Along the way a nice beetle showed and I stopped to take photos, then a meter long snake appeared briefly on the track, which was nice.
The pond itself was not too exciting, although I added several species to my trip list – more Little & Cattle Egrets and Black-crowned Night Herons, 2 Common Pochard, 3 Gadwall, 50+ Little Grebes, 1 Great Crested Grebe and 4 White-headed Ducks. Three Greylag Geese were also there – but not sure if they were really wild birds. I tried to turn the Eurasian Coots into Red-knobbed but they were having none of it.
I drove through the woods at the recommended 20 k/hr limit on the very rough, speed bumped track until I reached the far side and turned onto an even more potholed, crappy bitumen road that circled once again out to the salt pans and ponds.
I was hoping for Marbled Duck and Collared Pratincole, but instead saw more Flamingoes, Spooners, Stilts and Kentish Plovers. I did come across a flock of about 130 Black-tailed Godwits with one Spotted Redshank in the background and two Dunlin in the fore.
By this time the heat haze was causing havoc. I’d been birding for 6 hours and was ready to give it away, so I did.
Drove back along the dusty roads, in and out of potholes, over speedbumps, around rocks, Jesus, it was slow going. Back to camp and a meal in the attached bar/café/restaurant where a lovely young Spanish girl, who spoke a sort of English, helped me decide what to have with a smile to warm your heart. She was probably younger than my daughters but she was just lovely and I’ve spoken to so few people in the last 10 days it was a very pleasant experience.
I had an Aquadulce salad – they only make them for two people, but I had one anyway and ate half. Followed by a ‘pork jaw stew’. Yep, that’s what the English menu said. Basically several very tender chunks of meat that could have been anything in a thick gravy with a small portion of fries. Along with a glass of beer it went down very well. Once again, didn’t realise how hungry I was. I charged the laptop while I ate from a power box on a pole designed for the process and finished off with two coffees – total E17.
Then it was time to rest in the shade and write all this shit up.
I waited till 20.30 then headed back to the Pinar de Monte Algaida – a 45 minute drive. Checked the pond again while I waited for dusk to fall @ approx 21.45. Much the same as earlier in the day – a few more Egrets coming in to roost, but other than that it was same same.
I walked down the track into the park when it got to twilight. It was very quiet. There is a two car wide sandy, roughish track – the one I had driven earlier in the day – and a couple of cars headed down it further in to the park.
A movement in a tree nearby attracted my attention and initially I thought it was probably a Collared Dove – there were dozens in the area – settling down for the night. I binned it and found it was a Tawny Owl. Nice! Tried for photos but they were too blurred.
I moved on playing for the Nightjar, Scops Owl (although the habo wasn’t suitable, but what the hell) and Little Owl. I heard the Tawny or one of its mates calling behind me and in the distance a Little Owl.
A while later and I heard exactly what I had hoped for – a Red-necked Nightjar calling. However, cutting a long story a bit shorter – I couldn’t locate it or keep it calling. I gave it the best part of an hour then headed ‘home’.
One of the rules in campsites here appears to be no driving in or out between midnight and, usually, 7am. Not very birder-friendly, but I guess it helps security and minimizes disturbance.
I got back to the campsite at 23.15 to find the gates shut. WTF?? I was considering climbing the fence when a dude appeared and opened the gate for me. He said a lot I didn’t understand but wasn’t rude – probably just explaining that he’d been in the crapper or something. Anyway, I got in, drove quietly to my campsite and crashed.
Spanish list – 103 (new – 12) Lifers – 6 New European – 3
Day 10 – Monday 17.6.19
Up at 7 – and a phone call from home to make me feel all warm and fuzzy.
Headed confidently now – back to the Martin Miguel Ponds – FA there, then on to find the Bonanza Ponds.
Different from the salt flats these are a set of three ponds in the middle of the agricultural area, fresh water surrounded by thin reed beds – and busy, narrow f……..g roads. Jesus Christ on a moped…..
Anyway following the directions I had I found them easily – again, I say, amazing!!
These were nice ponds in a shit area with crap all around them and trucks, mopeds, vans and cars passing almost continually. Even Mr H would have difficulty hearing anything calling.
But I did!
And identified a Western Olivaceous (or Isabelline) Warbler after careful scrutiny and comparing the bird with the app. I even compared the song which I could hear in the brief intervals between trucks, mopeds etc. Mind you it was singing so loud, they could probably hear it in Madrid. It’s not a very exciting bird – plain brown, little distinguishing marks – but it did make me feel a bit better about actually finding and identifying a warbler. Mr H and I had an (Eastern) Olivaceous Warbler in Greece and, honestly, if they were both here in Spain I wouldn’t have a chance – but seeing as how there aren’t any Os here……Lovely bird! Beautiful!
Back to the ponds – plenty of White-headed Ducks, doing mostly what they do best – sleep. They never seem to DO anything except preen and sleep. They are so boring.
Plenty of Eurasian Coots – but, no, no Red-knobbed. I really, really tried as this was a named location, but no luck. I’ve never looked at a Coot before – now I know its facial pattern intimately. Just ask me!
A few Little Grebes, Common Moorhens and 3 Common Pochard – probably the same birds I saw at the pond up the road yesterday – a male and 2 females.
While I surveyed the second pond a single Common Waxbill popped up. It’s an introduced species but is on the European list so…
I checked all three ponds and found another couple of Isabelline Warblers at the third – again good views cemented my confidence.
Then I went out on the salt flats again. Much the same as yesterday although the Black-tailed Godwits had moved into this area this time along with 6 Curlew Sandpipers (new Spanish for me) and 5 Dunlin now. I had just started watching them when a Black Kite flew over, the 300 or so Pied Avocets panicked and everything else went up along with them. F…K! Mind you 300 Avocets in flight is a stunning sight, but I would have enjoyed seeing the Godwits in their summer plumage for a bit longer.
I moved on as they weren’t coming back anytime soon and then had to stop as a Kentish Plover stood in front of the car and refused to move. Then I realised she had two tiny chicks with her and they were wandering around the road. Give her credit for her guts, standing up to the car. I waited while she led them off the track and went on to the sluice gate I was at yesterday. Not as many birds around this time, so I started back stopping for a couple of Spectacled Warblers who tried to evade my camera – and probably did.
By now it was after 11, it was stinking hot, I felt I’d done the Bonanza thing and needed to cut my losses and consider where I should go tomorrow.
It was a toss up between the main Coto Donana park area or back to the mountains at El Bosque. The whole option of driving to Portugal had faded and I didn’t really want to hang around here for the next three days.
I drove through Sanlucar looking for a shopping area with smokes and possibly take home presents in mind. But it was all too freaking hard.
I have decided I do not like Spanish towns.Squincy, narrow, little streets, cars parked everywhere, drivers up your ass, more pedestrian crossings than is anyway reasonable, where people simply walk out and expect you to stop – even when you can’t see the bastards behind all the bastard parked cars. Streets that you can’t access, one way streets that don’t appear to be, two way streets that don’t appear to be, signs everywhere, roundabouts that lead you somewhere you weren’t sure you wanted to be, but you’re there now anyway, cause its one way or no way and the guy up your ass is trying to climb into your boot – and, finally, NOWHERE TO PARK. It drives me mad.
I would love to immerse myself in cafés and coffee and meals – but I just get so pissed off trying to negotiate my way around and find a place to leave the car that I just give up and f…k off. I ended up at MacDonald’s. Yes, I know. In Spain and you go to Mackers? Tut tut tut shame! Yep – but the parking is easy, the coffee is plentiful and the air conditioning is good.
And I’ve only down it twice in 10 days after all. Mind you I’ve only seen 2 MacDonald’s in that time so maybe its not so good….. Anyway. I enjoyed a large café latte and then went looking for cigarettes. The only places that sell fags in Spain, it seems, are Tabacs or tobacconists. And they are not on every street corner.
Oh No. Which is surprising, considering the number of Spaniards that smoke.
I walked for about 20 minutes until I found one – by fluke more than design. I bought 4 packets, 2 of which came with a free lighter, go figure – and walked back to Mackers for another latte….
(Incidentally the cigarettes cost a total of 17.80 euro or less than $30).
Then I headed back to camp to have another meal in the attached café and consider my future options.
I had grilled baby cuttlefish, which was chewy but nice, chips and salad. Then spent most of the afternoon updating my blog – now that I have discovered wifi is available….
I hung out till 20.30 then headed back towards the Bonanza Ponds in search, once more, of the R-n Nightjar. According to the gen they have been seen in the pine woods adjacent and, as they seem a smaller patch of pines, I thought it’d be easier than the main park.
I headed confidently along the road passing the Martin Miguel Ponds at about 95 k/hr on the narrow road. I had just passed them when a bird flew straight over the car and I immediately recognized and yelled ‘PRATINCOLE!!’ and reefed on the brakes. Luckily there was 1. No one behind me, and, 2 a pull in spot was just nearby. But by the time I parked and got out there was nothing to be seen. The evening sky was clear. I was cursing my luck when suddenly it appeared again, right overhead and landed about 50 meters away on the other side of the ditch on a raised mud berm. WOW!! Collared bloody Pratincole! An unreal bird and one of my main targets. I managed to get quite close to it and, as I watched it, 3 more flew in and landed around the immediate area. They definitely were NOT there on either of the previous two days. The gen advised that there was a colony right here but I had seen no sign of anything on my two previous visits. Here they were now anyway and my spirits soared. It’s amazing what one good, wanted, bird will do for you.
I left them to it and moved on to the ponds, spending 40 minutes or so, through dusk waiting, listening and playing feedback for no result. I knew the caravan park closed at midnight, so my time was a little limited, considering dusk was at 22.15. However, I drove down to the Pines area again (where I had heard one the previous night) and drove a couple of Ks in thinking that maybe they’d land in the road. I didn’t find any and stopped several times on my way out to play – but nothing. I’ll just have to settle for the Prat.
Spanish list – 108 (new – 13) Lifers – 9 New European – 3
Day 11 – Tuesday 18.6.19
I had decided to go to the main area of the Donana National Park. Much and all as I fancied the mountains again, it seemed wasteful to ignore this important area and you never know, I might get lucky there?
I got up late after another warm phone call and had a leisurely breakfast of the usual stuff, followed by a hot coffee in the bar area. I broke camp and was on the road by 9.45. It was a 235 km, 2 and a half hour drive. On the map its 50 odd ks in a straight line, but the roads go via Seville so it’s much longer.
I did fine, making only one mistake in Seville after crossing the suspension bridge thing, but sorted it out and got back on the right road again. Arrived at the La Aldea camping area near Del Rocio and settled in.
After pitching the tent and tarp I sat down for a while – and got bitten alive by midges. Actually, they didn’t really bite me – that’s normal, I think I’m just too toxic – but they were annoyingly in my face, crawling everywhere and almost invisible so I thought I’d get out for a while. I drove about one and a half ks to the Centro de Visitantes at La Rocina only to find, to my horror, that it was closed. WTF? I’ve come all this way and the main water viewing area is closed??
The guard on duty couldn’t speak any English – just told me it was closed, which I had already assumed, due to the closed gates…… As we ‘spoke’ another guard turned up and he could explain that because of some public holiday or something (that bit I didn’t get) this center was closed today, but would be open tomorrow. Thank Christ for that!
I went back to camp via a service station where I got a couple of bread sticks, ate one with the can of sardines I’d been carrying for the last week, then decided to get out of dodge again to avoid the freaking midges.
I drove down towards Matalascanas, to the main visitor center. It was someway off the road and I saw a Woodchat Shrike on the way in. The girl was helpful and gave me a map and explained some stuff like opening & closing hours etc (8.00 – 21.00). There were several hides at this center too, but very little water, apparently, and it being 15.00 it was hot and generally quiet so I left them for tomorrow.
I went on as far as the coast, at Matalascanas, and looked out to sea for a short while. Parking – and access to the actual ocean – was fairly restricted, so I didn’t hang around long after parking on the footpath. I did see a handful of Northern Gannets a long way offshore. Might be worth a bit of a seawatch if I get the opportunity at the right end of the day. But I honestly wouldn’t expect much.
Back to camp - stopping along the way to see more Woodchat Shrikes, European Bee Eaters and Common Stonechats on the fence lines, Black & Red Kites overhead - and had a shower, then hung around the café for a while with a coffee before returning to the tent to sit out the rest of the afternoon.
I went for a walk at 20.00 down a dusty track beside the site and saw a flock of Azure-winged Magpies, my first for this trip, more Bee Eaters and I also had a pair of Common or Black-rumped Waxbills (I assume they’re the same bird). These were much more impressive than yesterday’s bird – bright red faces and crimson bellies, black undertail coverts, barred flanks, bright red bills. The one I had seen yesterday must have been an immature as it only had the red face. They perched up well for close views, of course, ‘cause I hadn’t brought the camera…..
Everything looked very dry. There was little water, or even damp mud, visible anywhere from the road – except at the nearest visitor’s center, the one that was closed today. Hopefully the lack of open water in general will help concentrate the birds – or at least concentrate the Marbled Ducks….. I thought about going out looking for Nightjars again – but decided not to. Maybe tomorrow night.
Spanish list – 109 (new – 13) Lifers – 9 New European – 2
Day 12 – Wednesday 19.6.19
Up at 7 and left the campsite at 8. Very heavy dew and mist, visibility limited to about 80 meters. I left my laptop at reception – a notice said they’d charge it and they did.
I went first to the closest visitor center – La Rocina – and walked in to the hides. I spent the next three hours wandering from hide to hide checking the birds in and around the (only shallow) water available. Added White Wagtail, Purple Swamphen, Eurasian Tree Sparrow and Yellowhammer to the trip list, and European Reed Warbler and Little Ringed Plover to my Spanish list. I think I heard a Garden Warbler and definitely heard Turtle Dove, other than those it was much the same as the last few days. Nice birds, but nothing ‘new’.
I drove down to the next visitor’s center (Laguna del Acebuche) had a coffee and walked three hides in there. Even less water and less birds – nothing new. I did see a new butterfly (unid), a beetle (also no idea yet) and a Swallowtail which was very nice. By now it was midday and hot. I decided to go back, pick up my laptop and check for Marbled Duck in E-bird – just to see if there were any recent records anywhere within reach. The overall duck situation was pretty poor – most likely due to the lack of open water.
On the way back I checked the local garage and found a carwash, where for 2 euros, I vacuumed and washed the car using a roll of kitchen paper to wipe it down.
Picked up the laptop and checked E-bird. There were a couple of recent records in the National Park. The ‘closest’ one was 53 kms and 1.5 hours drive away. I had a coffee while I debated the trip. It was pretty obvious, even to me, that I was going to go for it – I just had to feel it was justified. So, at 2, I headed off. Ms Mapsme took me there – well, sort of. She led me along bitumen most of the way, then down a very, very, rough, stony, track where I sweated on the car getting through without damage or puncture. I ended up overlooking the lake from about a kilometer away which was no good at all, at all. Back along the stones, absolutely shitting it.
Turning and heading back I took another bitumen road that seemed to skirt where I thought the lake would be, ignoring her exhortations to ‘complete a U-turn’ - until I turned her off.
Following my nose, I came to a sign that pointed the way to Centre Visitations Dehesa de Abajo which wasn’t even on the map I had obtained off the park. That was the E-bird location for the last sighting, 7 days ago, of two birds. I got there, mostly on bitumen again, which was nice - and walked the 10 minute hike down to the first of two hides overlooking the large body of fresh water. Scanning, scanning – Great Crested Grebe, Coot, Great Crested Grebe, Coot, Marbled Duck, Coot….what?? Marbled Duck?? Yes, oh yes, Oh YES!! A single bird standing on a half-submerged log, 3 or 400 meters away, instantly recognizable. WOW!! Far OUT!! Couldn’t believe I was actually, finally, seeing one! I took some quick photos and then hurried to the next hide, which seemed to be a bit closer. It was, slightly, but the view was almost obscured by shrubs allowed to grow too high along the bank. However, in the end I saw 5 birds and managed to get very poor record shots and shaky video using the maximum magnification on the camera. I was happy again! See, it doesn’t take much! Just a duck.
I also saw a female Red-crested Pochard, but didn’t really pay attention – and a Great Reed Warbler (new Spanish, just ticked recently in Finland) was singing from the reed bed 50 meters in front and I caught a fleeting glimpse of two birds chasing – you can hear him on the video as background.
I spent almost an hour watching and filming the ducks then trudged wearily back up the slope to the center and had two beautiful coffees before heading back ‘home’. I told Ms Maps that if she took me down another dirt road there’d be hell to pay – and she must have listened because it was bitumen all the way.
I hung around camp, had coffee, used the excellent wifi and updated my blog. At 20.00 had a shower and third of a tin of meatballs cold on stale bread. Yeah, I could have had a meal but I didn’t want to eat much and I had to use up some of the food I’d bought.
At 20.45 I drove back down the road to the main visitor center headquarters turn off. I stopped 100 meters inside the gate and spent the next hour watching and listening and playing calls but there was no sign of any RN nightjars. Seemed like perfect habitat – but then so has each of the places I’ve tried on the other three nights. I did see a heap of Azure-winged and Common Magpies heading off to roost and several small insectivorous bats.
I headed home and crashed just after 11.
Spanish list – 119 (new – 19) Lifers – 10 New European – 2
Day 13 – Thursday 20.6.19
Up at 7, breakfast and then broke camp, packing everything away properly. At 8.15, I checked out, paid the 32 euros for the two nights camping and went for a coffee in the café. Then I headed down to the beach. Thought I’d do a bit of a seawatch before heading for the airport as I hadn’t actually done one at all this trip.
I gave it half an hour, but saw only about 12 Gull-billed Terns (new for Spain for me) passing over the edge of the beach – nothing out to sea, not even a Gannet.
I headed for Seville airport at 10 and arrived around 11.30. Dropped off the hire car successfully this time and claimed my 10 euro back from the parking people (remember the machine took it a week ago and didn’t give me any change?)
Then into departures, check-in took forever, boarding took forever (mainly due to a 30-strong party of 10-12 year old school kids all travelling together) but we left more or less on time.
Spanish list – 120 (new – 19) Lifers – 10 New European – 2
I didn’t do very well at all. I had assumed that the places I had scheduled to visit would be more active – they weren’t. Whether this was due to the weather – hot and dry – the general lack of water, or just being too late in the season, I don’t really know. While my hearing and sight are not as great as they once were, I don’t think that lack made much of a difference overall. I probably missed some calling warblers, but the general lack of birds at all was surprising.
I was particularly disappointed at not getting Red-necked Nightjar, Black-winged Kite and Black Wheatear, I had thought they would be pretty straight forward – obviously not, in my case. I tried really excellent habitat for all three with no success.
I wasn’t overly impressed by the habitat anywhere along the coast, it seemed to me to be seriously degraded and overused – and there seemed to be a complete lack of interest in any sort of preservation apart, that is, from the Cote Donana national park.
I recorded 121 bird species, 3 Mammals, 13 Butterflies, 2 Bees, 2 Beetles and 1 Snake.
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