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TRIP REPORTS. SEPTEMBER 2005.

16th September. My first tour of the new season was with a Belgian family, Johan van Doosenlaenes, his wife Cristine and theit two teenage daughters, Els and Tessa. We began the tour at the Arroyo de las Cañadas, near El Rocío. As we drove along the arroyo we recorded Crested Larks, Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, numerous Hoopoes, Cattle and Little Egrets, Melodious and Willow Warblers, Stonechats, Whinchats, Black-billed Magpies and a Kingfisher.
Our next stop was at the Dehesa de Pilas, but unfortunately we could not find any Pin-tailed Sandgrouse and had to be satisfied with views of Booted and Short-toed Eagles, Marsh Harriers, Common Buzzards, Yellow Wagtails, Northern Wheatears, 6 Tawny Pipits, Little-ringed Plovers and White Storks.
We then drove further out into the marshlands which, sadly, are still dry due to lack of rain. However, the rice harvesting has Now started and in one field near Hato Raton we found over a thousand White Storks, hundreds of Little and Cattle Egrets, dozens of Grey Herons, Ravens, Red Kites, Montagu's Harriers, Green Sandpipers, Purple Herons and at least 7 Black Storks.
In the afternoon we visited several sites in the Isla Mayor and added Ringed Plovers, a Little Stint, Common Sandpipers, Black-winged Stilts, Greenshanks, Common Kestrels, Griffon Vultures and Southern Grey shrikes to our list.
The top site of the day was the "reedbeds", which apart from many of the previously mentioned species, also produced Golden Bishops, Common Waxbills, Purple Swamp-hens, Little Grebes, Snipe and a Moustached Warbler.

17th September. Today I was guiding the same Belgian family as yesterday. We spent the first two hours visiting various sites around Villamanrique and along the Corredor Verde.
In the Los Labrados y Torrejones forests we recorded numerous Hoopoes, several flocks of Iberian Magpies, Buzzards, Booted Eagles, Pied and Spotted Flycatchers and Southern Grey Shrikes. At the Corredor Verde we visited both of the Mancho Zurillo lagoons and had excellent views of 2 Black-shouldered Kites, Booted Eagles, an Osprey, dozens of Turtle Doves, Whinchats, Serins, Willow Warblers, Little and Cattle Egrets, Grey Herons, Great Crested Grebes, Tufted Ducks, Shovelers, Common Pochards, Little-ringed Plovers, Common Sandpipers and at least 21 Black Storks.
We then crossed the Río Guadalquivir and spent the rest of the day at the Brazo del Este. We drove alongside the Río Guadaira and the first birds we recorded were Black-crowned Night Herons. These were quickly followed by a Water Rail, Black-winged Stilts and Kestrels.
At the northern site of the Brazo del Este we saw Ruff, Ringed Plovers, Snipe, Little Stints, Dunlins, Black-tailed Godwits, Lapwings, Spanish Sparrows, 11 Marsh Harriers, White Storks and a flying flock of over 100 Black Storks.
In the southern parts of the site there were Purple Swamp-hens, Glossy Ibis, Green, Wood and Curlew Sandpipers, Redshanks, Squacco Herons, Whiskered and Little Terns, Kingfishers, Golden Bishops, Common Waxbills, Yellow Wagtails, Reed Warblers, Zitting Cisticolas, Corn Buntings, Marbled Ducks, Teal, Red-rumped Swallows, Sand Martins, Common Swifts and another Osprey.
On the drive back to Villamanrique we were halted by a flock of over 400 Glossy Ibis that were circling over the rice fields. Close by there were thousands of storks, herons, gulls and egrets enjoying a feeding frenzy as a tractor ploughed the stalks in a recently harvested rice field back into the earth. In doing so it was churning up millions of fish, frogs, eels, crayfish, insects, grubs and larvae, which the birds were feasting on.
Our last bird of the day was another Black-shouldered Kite, sitting on top of a dead tree, just 50 metres from the road.

18th September. My tour today was with Carolyn and Paul Walker from North Devon and Dave Brassey from Newport, Wales. We began at the Lagunas de Mancho Zurillo, but the cold wind and threatening clouds resulted in many of the smaller birds keeping deep into cover. An Osprey showed well for 10 minutes and Booted Eagles, a Short-toed Eagle, Common Buzzards, Kestrels and Turtle Doves kept us busy for a while. As the sun appeared and the wind dropped we began recording more birds and recorded Southern Grey Shrikes, Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, Whinchats, Willow Warblers, a Sardinian Warbler, Great Tits, Hoopoes and Iberian Magpies. On the lagoons we saw Black-winged Stilts, Little-ringed Plovers, Common Sandpipers, Grey Herons, Little Egrets, Common Pochards and Tufted Ducks. Two Black Storks and a few Ravens were seen circling on a thermal and a female Hen Harrier drifted slowly by. As we drove along the Corredor Verde toward the Isla Mayor we found the first of three Black-shouldered Kites that were to be seen during the day.
As we passed alongside a few recently harvested rice fields we had very good close-up views of hundreds of White Storks, Cattle Egrets and both Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls.
Once we reached the Isla Mayor I parked beside a tamarisk tree that is noted as the day-roosting site for Black-crowned Night Herons. We were not to be disappointed and 19 birds were seen in the tree.
At the "reedbeds" we saw the resident male Golden Bishop, 10 Common Waxbills, a Squacco Heron, Green and Wood Sandpipers, Snipe, Marsh Harriers and Reed Warblers. A Water Rail called for almost 30 minutes but we were unable to get a view of it.
We then drove along the east bank of the Entremuros, finding Greenshanks, Dunlins, Curlew Sandpipers, Ringed and Kentish Plovers, Little Stints and numerous Montagu's Harriers.
In the afternoon we visited the Partido de Resina and although we saw many birds, we only added a Purple Heron and a Common Quail to our list.
We ended the day at the Dehesa de Pilas and the Arroyo de la Cigüeñas. As the others were looking for Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, I spotted one, then two and then four Little Bustards alongside the arroyo. These provided excellent viewing from about 100 metres for around 30 minutes. We also saw a Little Owl, Collared Pratincoles, Northern Wheatears, 3 Tawny Pipits, Spotless Starlings, Barn Swallows and hundreds of Yellow Wagtails.

22nd September. With me today were a group of 8 birders from Lancashire, led by Robin Griffiths. The group are enjoying one of my 8 day/7 night birding packsge tours and will be with me all week.
Rebecca and I collected the group from their hotel and proceeded to the Arroyo de las Cañadas. At various points along the arroyo we saw Little and Cattle Egrets, 2 Kingfishers, Crested Larks, Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, Willow Warblers, an Iberian Chiffchaff, a Whitethroat, Stonechats, Whinchats, Serins and Snipe.
Our next stop was along the El Rocío - Villamanrique road, where a beautiful Short-toed Eagle posed for over 15 minutes, before displaying his flying skills. We also recorded several Common Buzzards and Kestrels, Red-rumped Swallows, a few Tree Sparrows and numerous Corn Buntings.
The Lagunas de Mancho Zurillo produced 4 Booted Eagles, two of which circled just 30 metres above us for a few minutes. An Osprey was perched in a tree in the centre of one of the lagoons and gave excellent views. Other birds seen at the lagoons included Great crested and Little Grebes, Pintails, Shovelers, Teal and Tufted Ducks.
As we drove along the Corredor Verde we were treated to an aerial display by a pair of Black-shouldered Kites and a female Montagu's Harriers. More Booted Eagles, several Ravens and a lone Black Stork were also seen.
A visit to the "reedbeds" produced some of my expected species, namely 3 male and numerous female Golden Bishop, a flock of a dozen Common Waxbills, Zitting Cisticolas, Little-ringed Plovers, Common Redshanks, White Storks, Grey and Black-crowned Night Herons and numerous Marsh Harriers.
We then visited the turf growing farm alongside the Arroyo de las Cigüeñas and saw Yellow Wagtails, Tawny Pipits, Northern Wheatears, another Osprey and a flock of 13 Black Storks.
Our last birds of the day were at the Dehesa de Pilas, where two Little Bustards displayed well for over 10 minutes.

23rd September. The second day with the group of 8 birders from Lancashire was spent at several sites to the west of the Donana region.
The Laguna El Portil was alive with birds, mainly ducks and gulls and we had stunning views of several Male White-headed and a pair of Ferruginous Ducks. There were also Pintails, Gadwalls, Common Pochards and a number of both Little and Black-necked Grebes. Numerous Black Terns and a small number of Whiskered Terns were also present and pair of Egyptian Geese were also seen. I assume that this is the same pair that I saw there a couple of months ago.
The water level of the lagoon is now fairly low and this has exposed the shelving banks of the lagoon and created a suitable habitat for waders. We recorded Snipe, Little-ringed Plovers, Redshanks and Dunlins.
We then visited a site called La Ribera near Cartaya. This is the higher reaches of the Río Piedras and it always produces a good selection of birds. Feeding on the mudbanks were Ringed and Kentish Plovers, Bar-tailed Godwits, Whimbrels, Greenshanks, Common Sandpipers, Sanderlings, Little and Cattle Egrets, Black-winged Stilts, White Storks and both Yellow-legged and Black-headed Gulls.
At the Marismas de Río Piedras there were Sandwich Terns, 4 Caspian Terns, over 100 Curlews, Oystercatchers, Ruddy Turnstones, Grey Plovers and Lesser Black-backed Gulls.
The last site we visited was the Marismas de Odiel and although many of the previous mention birds were again seen, we only managed to add Curlew Sandpipers, Black-tailed Godwits, Cormorants, an Audouin's Gull and a Ring-billed Gull to our list.
Other birds seen throughout the day included Stonechats, Whinchats, Crested Larks, Iberian Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers, Hoopoes, Iberian Magpies, Buzzards and Marsh Harriers.

24th September. This was the 3rd day with the group of 8 people that are enjoying one of my package holidays. Today we wanted to try for some of the forest birds si I drove to the Algaida de Felix, between La Rocina and the Palacio de Acebrón. It was a misty morning and for the first 20 minutes we only saw a few Blackbirds, Sparrows and Stonechats. As the mist cleared we began to notice more activity in the trees and a flock of about 12 Long-tailed Tits (spp irbii) started feeding in the trees above our heads. Next came 3 Iberian Chiffchaffs and a few Chaffinches and Goldfinches. Several Southern Grey Shrikes we seen, along with good numbers of both Spotted and Pied Flycatchers. After about an hour I finally found the main target bird for the day, a Crested Tit, performing nicely just 30 metres away. This was closely followed by a pair of Short-toed Treecreepers.
The next site visited was the La Rocina nature reserve, where we managed to find two Black-shouldered Kites, Common Kestrels, a Sparrowhawk, Spotless Starlings and two Cetti's Warblers.
We had our lunch at the El Acebuche centre, accompanied by dozens of Iberian Magpies, a few of which were bold enough to take crumbs from beside me on the table, just half a metre away.
We then took a four hour tour inside the National Park. As we drove along the beach we saw an Osprey, a Peregrine Falcon, Booted Eagles, Ravens, Kentish and Grey Plovers, Sanderlings, Ruddy Turnstones, Oystercatchers, Lesser Black-backed, Yellow-legged and Audouin's Gulls, Sandwich and Black Terns and a Gannet. Amongst one of the many roosting flocks of Sandwich Terns I spotted something different. I immediately recognized it as a Lesser-crested Tern and pointed it out to the rest of the group.
Later in the day we had a fairly good view of a juvenile Bonelli's Eagle, a scarce bird for this region.

25th September. Today was the 4th day of 6 with the group from Lancashire and an excellent day of birding was had. The main area to be visited today was the Brazo del Este and the Isla de los Olivillos, but I first wanted a chance to find some of the "steppe" birds in the area to the southeast of Villamanrique.
As we drove from El Rocio we saw Iberian Magpies, a Southern Grey Shrike, a Black-shouldered Kite, Common Buzzards and Kestrels, Corn Buntings and Cattle Egrets.
At the first stop, at Casa Banco, I spotted three Stone Curlews about 150 metres away. We set up the telescope and were able to count at least 30 in the scrubby field, along with numerous Crested Larks, Spotted Flycatchers and Northern Wheatears. No luck with Pin-tailed Sandgrouse at this stop so I drove a further 2 kms and stopped again beside the Arroyo de las Cigüeñas. Within 5 minutes we had seen 5 sandgrouse flying and discovered 4 Little bustards. A larger flock of about 25 sandgouse flew directly overhead and landed out in the Dehesa de Pilas, too far away for us to get decent views, even with the telescopes. Another sizeable flock of 40+ Stone Curlews, 7 Hoopoes, several Marsh Harriers and many Yellow Wagtails were also seen on the dehesa.
As we drove to the ferry to cross the Río Guadalquivir, we had very good views of a mixed flock of White and Black Storks, Grey Herons and Little Egrets.
At the Isla de los Olivillos there was a Woodchat Shrike, a Red Kite, an Osprey, Zitting Cisticolas and a Cetti's Warbler. The eastern part of the Brazo del Este provided us with a few male Golden Bishops, Booted Eagles, Purple Swamp-hens, Squacco Herons, several flocks of Common Waxbills, Ringed, Little-ringed and Kentish Plovers, Snipe, Ruff, Dunlins, Little Stints, Green, Wood and Common Sandpipers, a Purple Heron, Black and Whiskered Terns, Pallid Swifts, Barn and Red-rumped Swallows, House and Sand Martins, Lapwings, Whinchats and Tawny Pipits.
At the northern end of the site we saw many of the previously mentioned birds, plus Spoonbills, Greater Flamingos and Avocets.

26th September. My fifth day with the group of 8 birders from Lancashire took us again to the west of the region. The first site visited was the Río Tinto at San Juan del Puerto, a vast area of river and salt marsh. Not a lot of birds were present, but 2 hunting Ospreys and a Caspian Tern kept us interested. There were a few other birds recorded, such as Green Sandpipers, Redshanks, Cattle Egrets, Sardinian and Willow Warblers and a very friendly Iberian Chiffchaff.
The next stop was at the Reserva Natural Estero de Domingo Rubio. The site here was teeming with birds and we saw Spoonbills, White Storks, Little Egrets, Grey Herons, Snipe, Black-tailed Godwits, Ringed, Little-ringed and Kentish Plovers, Dunlins, Little Stints, Great Crested and Little Grebes, Teal, Gadwalls, Shovelers, Little Terns, Reed, Cetti's and Spectacled Warblers, Zitting Cisticolas, Stonechats, Crested Larks and another Osprey.
After a picnic lunch we visited the lower end of the Río Tinto at La Rábida, where waders were very much in evidence. Good numbers of Ruddy Turnstones, Whimbrels and Sanderlinds were feeding on the exposed mudbanks, close to our location and a solitary Oystercatcher was also present, along with many Black-headed and Yellow-legged Gulls.
We then stopped at the Laguna Primera de Palos, where two Red-knobbed Coots were undoubtedly the star birds of the day. Also at the lagoon there were numerous Purple Swamp-hens, Cormorants and a female Marsh Harrier.
Our last stop of the day was at the Parque Dunar at Matalascañas. Most birds were sheltering from the heat, but we did manage a Dartford Warbler, better views of Sardinian Warblers, Northern Wheatears, Southern Grey Shrikes and both Black-billed and Iberian Magpies.
From the Lighthouse behind the park we saw several Gannets about a kilometre out to sea and we were overflown by a Peregrine Falcon.

27th September. This was my last day with the package holiday group from Lancashire. Tomorrow I transfer them back to the airport at the end of their week. In all, we recorded 124 species. Not a startling number, but in an area that has been badly affected by drought for the last 18 months, I was fairly pleased with the results and we have enjoyed some excellent birding.
Today we visited the Dehesa de Pilas, Partido de Resina, the Entremuros and the Isla Mayor rice fields and although we saw many bird species, including Stone Curlews, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, Black Storks, Little Bustards and Black-shouldered kites, we only added Hen Harriers and Glossy Ibis to our week's tour list.

29th September. With me on my tour today were Kerry and Vaudry Booth from Cheshire, Mathias Schaef and his girlfriend Kristina from Germany, Nick Holmes from Northampton and Johannes Plaschegg from Austria. Kerry and Vaudry had travelled across from Álora, in Málaga province, where they had been staying with Keith and Sherill, at the Finca Limoneros www.fincalimoneros.com, good friends of ours who offer excellent accommodation and guided birding in that region.
We began the birding at the Corredor Verde and saw a few Iberian Magpies, Crested Larks and Spotted Flycatchers on the way. At the Lagunas de Mancho Zurillo we found Common Pochards, Teal, Shovellers, Grey Herons, Little-ringed Plovers, Black-winged Stilts, little Egrets, Hoopoes, Serins, Goldfinches and Common Buzzards. At other points along the "corredor" we saw about 15 Red-legged Partridges, 3 Southern Grey Shrikes and 9 Black-shouldered Kites, two of which were "sky-dancing" only 50 metres from us and the highlight came as they locked claws and spiralled downwards, for about 35 metres, before dis-engaging and flying off before they hit the ground. Truly spectacular stuff!
We then headed for the Arroyo de las Cigüeñas and the Dehesa de Banco. here we found numerous Stone Curlews, Whinchats, Northern Wheatears, Whinchats, Yellow and Grey Wagtails, Cattle Egrets, an Osprey, a Red Kite, Kestrels and Marsh Harriers.
We then drove around the Isla Mayor rice fields and at the Cortijo de los Olivillos we discovered 8 Black Storks, Cattle Egrets and a Western Reef Heron (Egretta gularis gularis), which is a Spanish rarity and the first I have discovered since May 2004.
At the Entremuros there were Green Sandpipers, Ringed Plovers, Lapwings, Red and Greenshanks, Spoonbills, 100's of White Storks, 3 Montagu's Harriers a Barn Owl and another Black-shouldered Kite, bringing our total up to 10 for the day, just one behind my record count of 11.
Our next stop was at the "reedbeds", were 3 male Golden Bishops (Euplectes afer), plus numerous females were seen feeding with at least 15 Common Waxbills.
Our last stop was at the Dehesa de Pilas, where 4 Little Bustards were found.

30th September. Today I had Kerry and Vaudrey Booth with me for a second day of birding. They were joined on today's tour by Ray and Joan Sherred from Southampton and Arnoud and Wendy Richardson from France.
The first site visited was the Laguna Primera de Palos, to the west of the region. Almost immediately I spotted the two resident Red-knobbed Coots and alerted the others to their location. As they were viewing the coots I found an Osprey perched on the far side of the lagoon. On the water there were Common Pochards, Shovelers and Little Grebes and a scan of the reedbeds produced at least 7 purple Swamp-hens. Numerous Little Egrets were also seen. As we were packing up to leave, Ray spotted a Southern Grey Shrike.
Our next stop was at the Laguna El Portil and again, almost immediately, I pin-pointed 3 male White-headed Ducks and several females. Other duck species included Gadwalls, Teal, a Red-crested Pochard and Pintails. Further scanning of the massed ducks revealed a single Ferruginous Duck, just 40 metres away from our position and 5 Black-necked Grebes. A good number of waders were present and we recorded Black-tailed Godwits, Black-winged Stilts, Little-ringed Plovers, Dunlins and Sanderlings.
We then moved on to the Marismas del Río Piedras where we very soon had excellent close-up views of three Caspian Terns flying up and down the river, hunting. As we watched, a flock of more than 100 Whimbrels flew past our viewpoint, upset from their feeding by an Osprey. Cormorants and Sandwich Terns and a Kingfisher were seen perched on posts along the river and Curlews, Grey Herons, Ringed and Grey Plovers, Bar=tailed Godwits, Redshanks, Oystercatchers and an Avocet we feeding on the marshes. On the nearby golfcourse there were Cattle Egrets, Yellow Wagtails, Northern Wheatears, Stonechats and a Southern Grey Shrike.