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TRIP REPORTS. JANUARY 2007.

My tour today included Keith and Jill Foster from Harrogate in Yorkshire and their friends Mike from Skipton and Tony from Guernsey. After collecting the group from El Rocío, we drove to the Puente de Ajóli and then on alongside the Matagordas area of the National Park. We saw Iberian Magpies, Red-legged Partridges, Chiffchaffs, Ravens and a distant Spanish Imperial Eagle, perched atop a dead tree.
We returned to the Puente de Ajóli and drove beside the Arroyo de las Cañadas, finding White Storks, Little Egrets, Green Sandpipers, Glossy Ibis, a Grey Wagtail, Stonechats, Meadow Pipits, Crested Larks, Black-billed Magpies and a Kingfisher.
Our next stops were at the Laguna Mancho Zurilla and the Laguna de Quema. Here we recorded Tufted Ducks, Shovelers, Common Pochards, Grey Herons, Great Crested Grebes, Cormorants, Woodlarks, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, Robins, Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Chaffinches, Serins, Corn Buntings and Hoopoes.
As we drove through the Corredor Verde there were Cattle Egrets, Little Owls, 2 Booted Eagles, 8 Black-shouldered Kites, Marsh Harriers, a male Hen Harrier, Common Buzzards, Common Kestrels, Southern Grey Shrikes and Red-legged Partridges.
A large flock of Greater Flamingos were seen at the Cañada de Rianzuela, along with both Black-necked and Little Grebes and Jackdaws. Nearby, at the "reedbeds", there were many Purple Swamp-hens, a few Spoonbills, 6 Black Storks, Common Sandpipers and Lapwings.
In the afternoon, we visited the northern marshes and at the Lucio del Lobo there were Avocets, Black-winged Stilts, Pintails, Teal, Gadwalls and Shelducks.
Driving alongside the Caño de Guadiamar we added 9 Great White Egrets, Red-crested Pochards and hundreds of Common Cranes to our list.


23rd January. Today I was guiding Douglas and Geraldine Pilcher from Halifax, Yorkshire. I collected the couple from their B&B accommodation in Villamanrique and we headed straight for the Los Torrejones forest to look for Iberian Magpies, which was high on Douglas´s list of birds to see. We had hardly entered the forest when I spotted a group of the birds feeding about 50 metres from the track and for the next 15 minutes we had fairly good views.
Passing through the forest, seeing Buzzards, Hoopoes and Sardinian Warblers on the way, we reached the Corredor Verde. The first birds we saw were a pair of Little Owls, stood on an earth mound and enjoying the early morning sunshine. These were followed by a number of White Storks, Stonechats, Crested Larks, Great Tits, Chiffchaffs and Black Redstarts.
A visit to the Laguna de Quema produced Tufted Ducks, Shovelers, Common Pochards, Green Sandpipers, Little Egrets, Cormorants, Grey Herons and Little Grebes. Dozens of Barn Swallows and House Martins were flying over the lagoon and the surrounding fruit orchards. The numbers of these two species is increasing almost daily as early migrants arrive back from Africa.
As we drove through the Corredor Verde we saw 3 Cetti´s Warblers, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Song Thrushes, White Wagtails, Serins, Greenfinches, Linnets, Goldfinches, 2 Hawfinches, 100+ Spanish Sparrows, Meadow Pipits, Zitting Cisticolas, Blackcaps, Robins, Woodlarks, Southern Grey Shrikes, Cattle Egrets, 5 Black-shouldered Kites, Red Kites, Common Kestrels, a Peregrine Falcon, Marsh Harriers, Ravens, Glossy Ibis and 500+ Black-crowned Night Herons at their usual winter roosting site.
We crossed the Entremuros and at the Cañada de Rianzuela we found Black-necked Grebes, Avocets, Black-winged Stilts and Jackdaws. A heavy rainstorm yesterday morning had made the track to the “reedbeds” very muddy, so that site had to be missed out today, losing our best chance of seeing Squacco Herons, Bluethroats and Penduline Tits. However, 4 Black Storks and 14 Purple Swamp-hens seen near to the site was some compensation.
After a picnic lunch at the Fuente de Conejos, we made our way out to the northern marshes, seeing many of the already recorded species on the way . A female Hen Harrier passed close by as we stopped at the Casa de Bombas to get good views of 16 more Black Storks.
At the Finca las Caracoles, there were only a few Stone Curlews present, plus many Corn Buntings and Calandra Larks. Across the track, just inside the National Park boundary, the first two of 9 Great White Egrets that were seen during the afternoon, were found.
A flock of several hundred Greater Flamingos showed well at the Lucio del Lobo, although a great number were seen later at the Caño de Guadiamar. Also at the lucio were Greenshanks, Common Sandpipers, Pintails, Red-crested Pochards and Great Crested Grebes.
The last birds seen, as we were leaving the marshes were a few Lesser Short-toed Larks and over 1,000 Common Cranes.



Pictures of one of the six Alpine Accentors seen at Cabo Sáo Vicente on the 19th of January and the Allen´s Gallinule seen at El Rocío marshes on the 15th of January during the two centered tour of Doñana and Portugal. See trip report below.
Photos © Ray Wilson - Northwest Surrey RSPB Group.



17th - 21st January. Days 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 of a two-centred package tour.17th January. Today, Dave, Mary, Ray and Lyn were joined by Rebecca and we made our way to Portugal via some of the best birding areas to the west of the Doñana region. Our first stop was at the El Acebuche visitors centre, to try and get photos of the Iberian Magpies at the picnic area. On arrival, there was not a bird to be seen, but I began to scatter biscuit crumbs on the ground and within minutes there were over 40 Iberian and 5 Black-billed Magpies present, feeding within a few metres of us. A few Chaffinches and House Sparrows joined in the feeding and a pair of Great Tits were also seen.
We then drove to the Laguna Primera de Palos, looking for ducks and other waterbirds. There were Gadwalls, Mallards, Teal, Shovelers, Common Pochards, Coots, Moorhens and Cormorants on the water whilst in the reeds we saw Little Egrets, Purple Swamp-hens, Grey Herons, 5 Squacco Herons and White Storks. Chiffchaffs, Zitting Cisticolas and a Kestrel rounded off the birds at this site.
The Estero Domingo Rubio was very quiet and we only managed to add Black-winged Stilts, Common Snipe and White Storks to the day list.
The tide was just receeding at La Rábida and we managed to find Whimbrels, Curlews, Common Sandpipers, Turnstones, Redshanks and Ringed Plovers feeding on the exposed mud banks.
After a meal at a local restaurant, we drove to the Odiel Marshes. Our first stop here was at two small lagoons at La Calatilla, where 3 Red-knobbed Coots were the main atracción, but there were also Dunlins, Greenshanks, Little Grebes and White Wagtails.
Further along the marshes we found Greater Flamingos, Spoonbills, Grey Plovers, Kentish Plovers, Sanderlings, Black-necked Grebes, Sandwich Terns and Audouin´s Gulls. The three other common gulls, the Yellow-legged, the Black-headed and the Lesser Blackback were also seen.
With no more time or daylight remaining, we crossed the Portuguese border and headed for our base for the next four nights, the Casa Rosa at Moncarapacho www.casarosa.eu.com OR www.casarosa.net . This is a wonderful location for birders who are visiting the Algarve, great self-catering apartments, great food, great birding and excellent hospitility from Roger and Hanny, the owners.

18th January.
After an excellent evening meal the night before and a very filling breakfast, courtesy of Hanny, we set off early in the morning for the river and marshes just along the eastern edge of Fuseta, only a 10 minute drive from the Casa Rosa. It was almost low-tide and there were a good number of waders and gulls feeding fairly close by. In 40 minutes, we saw Redshanks, Greenshanks, Ringed, Kentish and Grey Plovers, Dunlins, Sanderlings, Common Sandpipers, Turnstones, Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls, Sardinian Warblers, Black Redstarts, Robins, Chiffchaffs, Goldfinches, Stonechats and 2 Caspian Terns.
At 9am, we went to the Ría Formosa Natural Park. At the salinas and along the bank of the river there were Bar-tailed Godwits, Whimbrels, Curlews, Oystercatchers and all of the other waders previously mentioned. Several pairs of White Storks were on their nests and a small group of Common Waxbills were seen in the reedbeds of a small pond. Iberian Magpies were plentiful throughout the park, along with a few of the Black-billed Magpies.
There were many Crested Larks present and at the tidal lagoon beside the ancient tide-mill we added a group of 13 Black-tailed Godwits. From the roof of the mill, we saw 5 Mediterranean Gulls and a number of Sandwich Terns.
From a bird hide overlooking a fresh water lagoon we saw Purple Swamp-hens, Grey Herons, Gadwalls, Shovelers, Wigeon, Little Egrets, Cattle Egrets, Little Grebes, Sardinian Warblers, Zitting Cisticolas, Serins and Greenfinches. A lone Griffon Vulture and two Buzzards circled lazily overhead.
After a great picnic lunch, again supplied by Hanny, we headed back to Fuseta, this time visiting the old salinas to the east of the town. Here there were Greater Flamingos, Spoonbills, Black-winged Stilts, Black-tailed Godwits, Redshanks, Greenshanks, Common Sandpipers, Turnstones, Avocets, Pintails, Teal, Kentish Plovers, Little Stints, a Temminck´s Stint, Sanderlings, Dunlins, a Peregrine Falcon, Marsh Harriers and a Little Tern.
We returned to the Casa Rosa at 16.30hrs to try to find a Barn Owl that Hanny had given us directions to. We failed with the Barn Owl, but had better luck with a Little Owl and a pait of Hoopoes.



19th January.
After an early breakfast, we sat on the terrace of the Casa Rosa, watching and photographing Blackcaps, Sardinian Warblers and Chiffchaffs feeding in the flowering Aloe Vera plants. A Hoopoe put in an appearance and was duly “snapped”.
We then set of for Quinta do Largo and the Lago de Sáo Laurenco. After parking the vehicle, we walked along the exposed mudflats of the Ría Formosa, dodging errant golf balls from the nearby fairways. On the mudflats there were both Black and Bar-tailed Godwits, Curlews, Whimbrels, Oystercatchers, Dunlins, Turnstones, Redshanks, Greenshanks and Kentish, Ringed and Grey Plovers. A mixed flock of gulls were resting on a muddy island and careful scanning revealed an Audouin´s Gulls and several Sandwich Terns. A Kingfisher flashed by and we were then treated to 10 minutes of a Caspian Tern fishing just 40 metres away.
The Lago de Sáo Laurenco was full of water and birds and we recorded a dozen or so Purple Swamp-hens, Little and Great Crested Grebes, Little Egrets, Wigeon, Pintails, Shovelers, Tufted Ducks and Common Pochards. Close scrutiny of the reeds revealed a good number of Common Snipe, whilst the stone pine forest produced Iberian Magpies, Hoopoes, Black Redstarts, Robins, Sardinian Warblers, Great and Blue Tits and Song Thrushes.
The afternoon involved driving to Cabo de Sáo Vicente, the most western point of Europe, stopping for another of Hanny´s packed lunches on the way.
Just before reaching the cape, I spotted a Blue Rock Thrush perched on an electricity cable and this was eagerly photographed by Ray. On arrival at the cape there seemed to be very little bird activity, but a search of the cliffs and scrubland produced Southern Grey Shrikes, Black Redstarts, Sardinian and Dartford Warblers, Zitting Cisticolas, Song Thrushes, Crested Larks, more Blue Rock Thrushes and a few Thekla Larks. Offshore, several Northern Gannets were seen.
I Spotted a Black Redstart nearby and as I was trying to direct Ray to it, I became aware of a small group of birds feeding close by, in the shadows of the cliff face. It was bad light and my first tour was of Rock Pipits. As they moved around I then thought of Dunnocks. By now, both Ray and Rebecca were on to the birds and as one came in to the light I announced that they were Alpine Accentors. At this point, they all flew off, so we returned to join the other by the vehicle. As we approached, Dave signalled a small group of birds feeding no more than five metres away and whispered “Alpine Accentors”. The birds had flown straight to the car park and produced fantastic photo opportunities for the next 10 minute. Hopefully, Ray, Dave and Mary will be sending copies of their photos and I will beable to post a few at a later date.
We ended the day at Pêra marshes, but we only had 15 minutes of daylight left, so couldn´t appreciate the area properly. However, in the failing light we did manage to see Purple Swamp-hens, Greater Flamingos, Spoonbills, Black-winged Stilts, Sanderlings and several duck species.

20th January.
Our trip today involved driving up to the Alentejo region of Portugal in search of Bustards. We took the A-27/N-122 to Mértola and then turned off to the Pulo do Lobo. On the way we stopped several times to photograph Red-legged Partridges, Southern Grey Shrikes, Lapwings, Corn Buntings, Crested Larks and White Storks. Also seen were Crag Martins, Serins, Black Redstarts, Stonechats, Buzzards and a Little Owl. I had never visited the Pulo do Lobo before but had heard good reports about it. It is a spectacular site for scenery and it seems very promising, but we were obviously there at the wrong time of the year and were disappointed by the lack of birds. The only birds of note were a pair of Rock Buntings, but even these were seen only very briefly.
Returning to the main N-122, we now drove along the road to Castro Verde and after about 30 minutes of searching, Rebecca asked me to stop and look at some shapes in a field, wanting to know if they were just tree stumps or clumps of vegetation. They turned out to be 15 Great Bustards and for the next half-hour we had great views and were able to get photographs. Eventually, the birds decided to move off and we were treated to the sight of these magnificent birds flying along the ridge of a field, before disappearing.
We continued along the road, almost to Castro Verde, seeing more White Storks, Lapwings, Cattle Egrets, partridges, shrikes, larks and Red Kites. With the sun getting coger in the sky, I decided to head back along the road, with the Sunlight behind us, hopefully to give us a better chance of spotting any birds in the fields and on the plains. Half way along the road we pulled over and I spotted another group of Great Bustards, 14 this time and slightly further away, but showing well in the good light. In the same area, there wer also 6 Red Kites, a couple of Buzzards, Ravens and two Carrion Crows.

21st January.
The last day of the tour and after an early breakfast we said farewell to Roger and Hanny at the Casa Rosa and made our way to the saltmarshes behind Faro airport. Low tide enabled us to see many waders, including Ringed, Grey and Kentish Plovers, Red and Greenshanks, Black and Bar-tailed Godwits, Little and Cattle Egrets, White Storks, Turnstones, Whimbrels, Curlews, Common Sandpipers, Oystercatchers, Dunlins and Sanderlings. A Caspian Tern put in an appearance before Mary spotted two smaller terns flying over the marsh, which turned out to be Common Terns.
We had decided that the Pêra marshes held enough interest to be revisited, especially as we had had such a short time there in failing light on Friday. As soon as we parked beside the marsh, Dave was immediately on to a resting Caspian Tern, only 70 metres away. This was avidly photographed many times over a period of almost two hours. Other birds that were found included Avocets, Greater Flamingos, Golden Plovers plus the other 3 species seen earlier, Black-winged Stilts, Crested and Woodlarks, Black Redstarts, Meadow Pipits, Pintails, Gadwalls, Shovelers, Teal and a few Marsh Harriers.
As we were leaving Portugal, we stopped at the Sapal do Castro Marim nature reserve. Spoonbills were seen flying and feeding and a few Snipe were also seen, along with numerous other waders. A small flock of about 8 Stone Curlews were Spotted on the drier areas of the marsh and a group of Red-crested Pochards brought the tour total up to 130 species seen.
It was now time to pack up the telescopes, binoculars and cameras and drive Dave, Mary, Ray and Lyn back to Sevilla airport to catch their flight back to the UK.
The highlights of the tour for me were the Allen´s Gallinule, seen so well at El Rocío on the 15th and the Alpine Accentors, showing even better on the 19th.


16th January. This was my second day with Dave and Mary Braddock and Ray and Lyn Wilson. After collecting the group from their hostal in Hinojos, we headed off to the Laguna San Lázaro. Even though we saw a flock of Iberian Magpies, a couple of Hoopoes, Blue and Great Tits, Greenfinches, Chaffinches, Meadow Pipits, Crested Larks, Chiffchaffs and Ravens, the site was a bit disappointing.
Our next stop was at the Laguna Mancho Zurillo, where Cormorants, Grey Herons, Little Egrets, White Storks, Common Sandpipers, Buzzards, Kestrels, Stonechats, Black Redstarts, Zitting Cisticolas, Woodlarks, Song Thrushes and a pair of Little Owls were seen.
At the Laguna de Quema there were Great Crested and Little Grebes, Shovelers, Tufted Ducks, Pochards, Serins, robins and Sardinian Wablers.
As we drove along the Corredor Verde, we found 3 Black-shouldered Kites, a Merlin, Red Kites, Marsh Harriers, Cattle Egrets and hundreds of Black-cowned Night Herons.
After a picnic lunch at the Fuente de Conejos, we headed for La Cantarita ricefields and on the way we stopped at a drying ricefield and found Little-ringed Plovers, Green Sandpipers, Lapwings, a Black Kite and a Temminck´s Stint.
We then saw 1,000´s of Greater Flamingos, feeding in one of the wet ricefields and a little further on we saw a huge flock of mixed waders. Amongst these we found Kentish and Ringed Plovers, Little Stints and Dunlins.
As we approached Cantarita, a Peregrine was seen on one of the electricity pylons beside the road.
At Cantarita, there were Redshanks, Greenshanks, Golden Plovers, an Osprey, another Merlin, Hen Harriers, Common Cranes and Penduline Tits.
As we were returning back to Hinojos, we saw dozens of Purple Swamp-hens.
Tomorrow, we are heading off for 4 days in Portugal, so the rest of this tour report will be posted when I return on the 22nd.

15th January. Today was the first of seven days that I will be guiding Dave and Mary Braddock and Ray and Lynn Wilson from the Northwest Surrey RSPB group. They are here on one of my 8-day inclusive packaged
two centered tours, which will involve 3 days in Doñana and 4 days in Portugal, with the emphasis on birding and photography. The same four were with me last January and the reports for that tour can be found on the “Archived trip reports” for Jan ´06.
Our first port of call was at the western end of the El Rocío marshes, where Greater Flamingos, Glossy Ibis, Black-tailed Godwits, Greylag Geese, Little and Cattle Egrets, White Storks, Grey Herons, Shovelers, Pintails, Pochards, Black Redstarts, Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Great Tits, Meadow Pipits and Chiffchaffs were seen and photographed.
After an hour, I decided it was time to move to the eastern end of the marsh, near the burnt-out SEO bird hide. A group of glossy Ibis were close-in and as the others were taking photos, I started to check the reeds for warblers. Within a minute I had spotted a small dark bird creeping between the reeds. I knew from various reports that this bird was at El Rocío, but I had not expected to find it so easily. A mega rarity in the shape of an Allen´s Gallinule. I quickly called the others and for the next hour the bird, which was not shy of humans, was observed in the open and photographed from ranges of between 7 and 30 metres. We followed the bird for about 150 metres, to the small reedbed directly behind the Hotel Toruño. Here, the bird finally caught a sizeable frog and disappeared into the reeds to eat it.
Back at the SEO bird hide we saw numerous Common Snipe, Lapwings, Spoonbills, a Red Kite, Stonechats and a very obliging Cetti´s Warbler.
By now, it was almost 1pm, so we decided to drive to the Dehesa de Abajo for our picnic lunch. On the way, we passed alongside the Arroyo de las Cañadas, seeing Green Sandpipers, Crested Larks, Iberian and Black-billed Magpies, Spotless Starlings, Kestrels, Southern Grey Shrikes and a Black Stork.
After our lunch, we visited the “reedbeds”, hoping to find the Squacco Herons that are usually there. Unfortunately, not one was to be found, but we were compénsate by a Kingfisher, Ringed Plovers, a Grey Plover, Greenshanks, Common Sandpipers, more Black Storks, Marsh Harriers, a Booted Eagle and 5 Penduline Tits.
Our next stop was at the Huerta Tejada, where 26 Stone Curlews and 2 Short-eared Owls were seen and photographed.
Nearby, at the Lucio del Lobo, we saw Avocets, Black-winged Stilts, Great Crested and Little Grebes, Lesser Short-toed Larks, Corn Buntings and about 700 Common Cranes.
By now, the light was starting to fade and as we made our way off the marshes we recorded 4 Hen Harriers (3M & 1F), 4 Great White Egrets and dozens of Purple Swamp-hens.