A day to remember!!!
I contacted Steve Daly of Andalucian Guides a week or so ago and asked him for some information on the Pallid Harriers (Aguilucho Papialbo / Circus macrourus) he had been seeing in his area as I was planning a visit. He replied saying that we could meet in one of the bars near the area and he would very kindly take me out in to the La Janda area and show me around and with some luck the birds.
So on this very foggy Tuesday morning we met up, had a coffee and headed out towards Barbate to escape the fog and hopefully see some of the free flying population of Bald Ibis (Ibis Eremita / Geronticus eremita) from the reintrodution program. On the way over we picked up Spanish Sparrow (Gorrión Moruno / Passer hispaniolensis), Cattle Egret (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis), Meadow Pipit (Bistita Común / Anthus pratensis), masses of Serins (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), Crag Martins (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris) and Collared Doves (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto). We arrived and after seeing a few of the Ibis on the roadsides where we could not stop we pulled into an area of small holding and in less than 5 minutes we had counted over 30, a great species to see but not the most handsome looking chaps (even I have a better hair do than them but not sure who's the better looking) we were going to see on this fantastic day. Also on the damp fields were some nice pure looking Rock Pigeons (Paloma Bravia / Columba livia) and Spotless Starlings (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor). We then moved on up the road towards Barbate past the lagoons and over the bridge into the town, on the way I saw Greenshank (Archibebe Claro / Tringa nebularia), Common Redshank (Archibebe Común / Tringa totanus), Little Egret (Garceta Común / Egretta garzetta), along with Lesser Black-backed (Gaviota Somria / Larus fuscus), Black-headed (Gaviota Riedora / Larus ridibundus) and Yellow-legged Gulls (Gaviota Patiamarilla / Larus Michahellis). Once we were back out on the main road between Traifa and Vejer de la Frontera we headed south picking up some more of the Ibis in a road side field before pulling off into a park area where we quickly added Green Woodpecker (Pito Real / Picus viridis), Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus), Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita) and Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros) to the list.
We moved out onto the farmland areas near by and following the main canal into La Janda, a large expance of drained lagoons which are now mainly rice paddies or crop fields. Almost immediatly we stopped and had a look into the reeds that lined the water we picked up Reed Bunting (Escribano Palustre / Emberiza schoeniclus), House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer Domesticus) and a male Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), whilst over head there were a pair of Ravens (Cuervo / Corvus corax) calling as they fly away over a nearby ridge. On the fields opposite there were the first of the days many White Storks (Ciguena Blanca / Ciconia ciconia), a male and female Marsh Harrier (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus) and a small family party of Common Cranes (Grulla Común / Grus grus). We continued on along the banks of the main canal which contained quite a few Willow trees and this was where we picked up a couple of immature Night Herons (Marinete Común / Nycticorax nycticorax) and these were followed by a pair of Penduline Tits (Pájaro Moscón / Remiz pendulinus) which showed well on top of the marginal reeds. Pheasants (Faisán Vulgar / Phaisanus colchicus) and Grey Herons (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea) were every where out on the fields and in the reedbeds there were impressive numbers of Purple Swamp-hen (Calamón Común / Porphyrio porphyrio) with there being at least 30 birds in one short stretch of canal. We saw the first Black-winged Kite (Elanio Común / Elanus caeruleus) of the day which was picked up way off on one of the distant electricity cables, a little later a second bird was seen on the wires along side the track but it was straight into the sun so getting any shot was not possible. We pushed on along the track towards the southern exit back on to the Tarifa road, along the way we saw large numbers of Common Cranes, lots more Marsh Harriers, a single Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis), the only wildfowl of the day a few Mallards (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), Calandra (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra), Crested (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata) and Skylarks (Alondra Común / Alauda arvensis). We headed south and then turned back into the fields again into a more restricted access area of La Janda, after a couple of Kms we came across another Black-winged Kite, this time the light was perfect. The bird flew over some rough ground just to the side of Steve; his camera must have been red hot by the sound of the machine gun like shutter. The bird hovered then dropped to half its height before dropping down into the grass and coming up with it lunch of a large mouse or small rat. It then flew to one of the larger posts in the track side fence and started to feed on its prey which allowed us to get quite close using the vehicle as a moving hide, I was quite surprised to see the Kite gut the mouse before eating it, I was expecting it to go down in one! We spent quite some time watching this cracker of a bird before moving on along the track checking all the pylons on the way, this paid off quite quickly when Steve spotted the first of the days Spanish Imperial Eagles (Aguila Imperial Ibérica / Aguila adalberti) which was a nice clean looking 1st winter bird. Whilst we looked at the distant Eagle a male Hen Harrier (Aguilucho Pálido / Circus cyaneus) was seen quartering the far side of a thistle covered field and a Bonelli's Eagle (Aguila-azor Perdicera / Hieraaetus faciatus) passed high over head. Further on we picked up a 2nd winter type Spanish Imperial Eagle in flight over some nearby oak trees; we had some nice views of this bird before it dropped out of sight. Just a bit further on we stopped to check out a good looking area for raptors when Steve looked back towards the spot where we had just seen the Eagle and said that it was showing again but we soon realized that this was a different species all together. This one was an immature Golden (Águila Real / Aquila chrysaetos) which gave very nice views and was joined after a short while by a Spanish Imperial but not the same birds as a few minutes ago as this was a 1st winter bird. We then climbed slightly up into an area of scattered trees, any open ground was carpeted with the young shoots of Asphodels, after a few minutes we picked a couple of Ringtail type Harriers a little further along the road so we jumped back into the van and moved ½ Km further on. The first bird flew out of one of the trees and was quickly ided as a female Hen Harrier but a second bird flew in from where we had been and right in front of us and this one was very obviously the bird I had come to see a Pallid Harrier. We had good but all too brief views of this bird but Steve still managed to crack off some shots as it went by. After seeing this bird I am now 100% convinced that the bird Juan Perez and I saw back in Granada was also a Pallid. Also in this area we had Sparrowhawk (Gavilán Común / Accipiter nisus), another nice male Hen Harrier, Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua), Mistle (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus) and Song Thrushes (Zorzal Común / Turdus philomelos), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala) and Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa). We continued on along this track back to wards the main Canal on the way we had another Black-winged Kite (dam they are common here), loads more Pheasants, Cetti’s Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti), Common Buzzard (Busardo Ratonero / Buteo buteo) and Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinula Chloropus). Once back at the main canal we had a chat with a couple of Spanish birders and had some nice views of the male Penduline Tit again before retracing out steps the long way back. In the area where we had seen the Pallid Harrier we had brief views of a Short-eared Owl (Búho Campestre / Asio flammeus) as it was being harried by several Jackdaws and Cattle Egrets. On the return drive we had good views of male and female Hen Harriers and 100s of Common Cranes coming into their roost fields. Other birds recorded during the drive around the area included Snipe (Agachadiza Común / Gallinago gallinago), Northern Lapwing (Avefria Europea / Vanellus vanellus), Grey Wagtail (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea), Kingfisher (Martin Pescador / Alcedo atthis) and Green Sandpiper
All the photo's highlighted in blue below were taken by Steve Daly of birds we saw on the day and he has kindly given me permission to use them on my blog, more of Steve’s shots can be seen at www.andalucianguides.com and www.andalucianguides.blogspot.com
Photographs from the top: Bald Ibis (Ibis Eremita / Geronticus eremita), male Penduline Tit (Pájaro Moscón / Remiz pendulinus), female Penduline Tit, 2x Black-winged Kite (Elanio Común / Elanus caeruleus), Spanish Imperial Eagle (Aguila Imperial Ibérica / Aguila adalberti) on Pylon, Spanish Imperial Eagle in flight, Spanish Imperial Eagle with Ravens, 2x Pallid Harrier (Aguilucho Papialbo / Circus macrourus), Steve Daly and Mandrake (Mandragora autumnalis).