(Click all pics for larger views.)
Day 1 Wednesday 29th March
Flight was on time and smooth so managed to collect my hire car from Malaga late morning and head straight for La Alcaidesa near the rock of Gibraltar.
Jeff kindly had some dinner ready for me before we headed out into the hills of Alcaidesa.
We were birding but it was a good time to brush up on some plant work with a variety of Orchids.
im learning so may get these wrong but here goes. Our first Orchid was a life but then they all were, the Sawfly Orchid Ophrys tenthredinifera
Another plant the nice iris Barbary Nut Iris (i think)
White Star of Bethlehem
For a change again we looked for a few newts the stunning looking Pygmy Marbled Newt and plenty of Nymphs. joining the newts were plenty of Marsh Frogs.
Back to birding now and cracking views of Short toed eagles, Booted Eagle, Black Kite and plenty of Kestrels. Bird of the day so far had to be the 2 races of Black Eared Wheatears, both the Dark and Pale throated variety. They were nice showy birds.
Its nice to spot other birds whilst watching the Wheatears, Spectacle Warbler was a bit of a surprise and a favourite bird of mine as I never seem to get good views of them are a pair of Cirl Buntings. Cuckoo Showed well and we could hear Iberian Green Woodpecker and Great Spotted woodpecker.
A Nice male Blue Rock Thrush was a bonus bird. We had a short walk along some of the tracks spotting the usual Corn Buntings, Stonechats and Jeff had our first Lesser Kestrels. 2 Ravens were a nice addition to today's list.
We made out way back to the car where we headed for the Sotogrande beach but it was a little quiet, Gannets, Mediterranean Shearwaters, Razorbill the usual Yellow Legged Gulls, our first and only Hoopoe.
Day 2 Thursday 30th March
Thursday was a trip out the Villa towards the hills of Tarifa for some Raptors. The winds were strong but slightly wrong for good passage, still Black Kites, Lesser Kestrel, Booted and Short toed eagles. Crested larks were at the raptor watch point as were Serins and Corn Buntings.
It was obvious after an hour the raptors weren't heading in this way so visited the hides at Playa de los Lances. It was as good as I remember loads of Sandwich Tern, a surprise Avocet, Oystercatchers, Kentish plover, Grey Plover, Ringed plover, Dunlin and Sanderlings. Out on the water 40-50 Scopoli's Shearwater.
We then headed for a small quiet rd opposite the hide which was great for Larks such as the Calandra Lark and Theckla Larks also good views of Corn Buntings, Tawny Pipit and Woodchat Shrike.
Back to plants and the Peruvian Squill Scilla peruviana was common along this road.
Next we drove onto a great place La Janda which i always visit because it always comes up trumps with many great species. Our first special bird the Purple Swamphen, Raptors started to turn up Black Kites, Booted and Short toed eagles and our first Osprey. Spoonbill was then a nice surprise,
Further along the track Glossy Ibis, White storks, Little Ringed Plovers Green Sandpipers and a nice selection of Cattle egrets.
The wind prevented us spotting or hearing any Little bustards although our only Quail was singing but we managed to have a great day here and finished the drive off with a few stunning Male Montagu's Harriers.
We then headed for a small hand built hide where Greenfinch and Sardinian Warblers frequented regularly giving great photogenic opportunities.
Day 3 Friday 31st March
Today headed for the Rock of Gibraltar hoping for Barbery Partridge, I wasn't to be disappointed with at least 11 birds all in one are on the east side all unrung, wild and showing nicely.
Headed back of the rock up to the Stork factory, a great spot for seeing White Stork nice and close. Had a few views of the tiny young in the nest
A trip up the mountain to the wonderful castellar de la frontera had us spotting Monarch Butterfly, Scarce Swallowtail, Moroccan Orange-tips, Whip Snakes, Algerian Psammodromus lizard and Wall Lizards. First Iberian Chiffchaff of the trip in song too.
Did spot an Ocellated Lizard and a Snake Sp but too quick for pictures.
We reached the top to great views of the landscape also nice views of Osprey and the Lesser Kestrels.
After a great few hours here and a light snack of the local quizine (stuffed) ;-) we headed towards the tip at Los Barrios as this was seriously good for views of Black Kite and White Storks. They would feed of the rubbish on the tip and sometimes fly only yards away.
Nipped back to spend a little more time with the Greenfinch and Sardinian Warblers back at the hide.
Day 4 Saturday 1st April.
Last full day here and time for a good stomp through La Alcadesa woods and hills looking again for plants and hopefully some new trip birds. I werent to be disappointed, probably the best day for species starting early with 5 roosting Egyptian Vultures, then the start of some Raptors, mainly Black Kite.
We then headed for the hills getting great views of Cirl Bunting and Woodchat Shrikes displaying.
Orchids were great and all new to me Sawfly Orchid
The amazing Mirror Orchid
And a Bumblebee Orchid
Further into the woods our first White Helloborine and a fungi
Further still into the woods and now it was Hawfinch Territory with quite a few birds seen and heard, Short toed Tree-creeper Pied Flycatcher and then 3 singing Bonelli's Warblers. Could hear Crested tits in the taller trees and managed a single shot of one feeding. We were amazed to hear a Scops owl calling from the trees, Bonus!!!
As the Woods opened out the sunny spots hosted a few butterflies such as Green Hairstreak and Provence Hairstreak.
We checked some pools that Jeff knew held Sharp ribbed salamander but none in the pools but I looked into a concrete pit and saw what looked like a Gecko under the water, this was the Sharp ribbed salamander, incredible looking thing and a giant. More Woodchat shrikes in the open area.
We had heard Bee eaters most days but it wasn't until now that we managed to find a small flock feeding, just awesome birds, i did manage some digishots, the flight shot wasn't easy.
We still hadn't finished our day yet, through the trees we were still spotting Raptors and Vultures but spot of the day was a pair of Bonelli's Eagles, stunning and a little unexpected.
Back to the plants and we found some Broomrapes I think the blue one is Egyptian broomrape and the brown one Common Broomrape? also Fern sp.
We managed the nice 12-15km easily and returned to the hills back Raptor watching, the wind was stronger and much more birds were moving 600+ Black kites 8 Montagu's Harriers, 1 Hen Harrier, 8 Marsh Harrier, 90+ Sparrowhawk, many Booted Eagles, 2 Osprey and another Egyptian Vulture.
Lastly the Wheatears were showing again and we found a nice Rhino Beetle, Algerian psammodromus and an Egyptian Gropper, huge!
Lastly a 2 min clip of some of the video footage I took. Watch in HD or 4K
Had to return to the airport early Sunday morning so no more birding but what another amazing trip to Spain. Maybe ill look into moving there :-)
Thanks goes to Jeff and Antonio for putting me up for a few days and taking the time to show me around.
Im sure ill be changing the names of some of the plants or reptiles as you guys correct me.