Monday, 14 March 2016

Gibraltar & southern Spain

The Rock of Gibraltar.

The view from Rob's apartment.

I arrived in a sunny  Gibraltar at 10.30 am on 7th March. (That was soon to change, but I didn't know that at the time)! Rob was there to meet me & we sped off to his flat in the South District. It was great to see Rob again & be in Gibraltar, a place that I had never been to before.

Gibraltar Bird Observatory.

Steve processing a Common Chiffchaff.

Common Chiffchaff.

We walked up the hill to Jews Gate Bird Observatory & were welcomed by Steve who was in residence for the whole spring. We quickly started seeing raptors passing by, the vast majority being Black Kites. Rob & I had a very pleasant hour or so there & then decided to walk into town. This turned out to be an error of judgement, as the heavens opened & we got soaked!

The old town, quite quirky & interesting.

After a nice dry interlude in the flat we once again ventured outdoors, this time to visit the town center. It turned out to be an interesting couple of hours for me, seeing the eccentricity which is Gibraltar! Examples include:

a) Jews, Muslims, Catholics & Protestants all living together amicably! How did that happen?
b) door knobs positioned in the center of the door (not at the side)!
c) three types of currency in use in all the shops!

Short toed Eagle.

On arriving back in the flat it soon became apparent that the raptor migration was back in full swing & between 4.45pm & 6.15pm we were treated to spectacular numbers of Black Kites flying by, some at really close range.

Best sightings for the day were:

Northern Gannet 25; Shag 2; Black Stork 6; Egyptian Vulture 1; Short toed Eagle 15; Black Kite 3,708; Marsh Harrier 2; Lesser Kestrel 2; Peregrine 1; Great Skua 3; Black headed Gull 1; Mediterranean Gull 3; Yellow legged Gull abundant; Sandwich Tern 14; Spotless Starling 11; Serin 6.
Rob then cooked me a nice meal & then it was time for bed for Zebedee!

Europa Point.

Looking towards The Rock from Europa Point.
The Mosque at Europa Point
looking towards The Rock.

Black headed Gulls with one Mediterranean Gull.

 The 8th  dawned bright & sunny & I did a sea watch for an hour from Europa Point.

Highlights: Northern Gannet 40; Shag 2; Razorbill; Great Skua 2; Mediterranean Gull 7; Black headed Gull 220; Sandwich Tern 5; Black Redstart 1; Spotless Starling 5; Meadow Pipit 2; White Wagtail 1.

There was no raptor migration at all until after 5.30 pm, then they started coming across the straits:

Short toed Eagle 4; Booted Eagle 1 & Black Kite 899.

Barbate Pans.

Rob & Ian.
Our transport for the day.

One of several roads through the 
very varied La Handa.

This site proved amazing for the 
variety of raptors seen.

The small family run restaurant, 
where we enjoyed a lovely lunch.

 The 9th March saw us up early & driving ino Spain. First stop was Barbate Pans & then we moved on to the varied habitats of La Handa, were we spent the rest of the day.  We met up with Ian Thompson who is a friend of Rob's & proved to be both a congenial companion & an superb guide.

Distant Audouin's Gulls.

A little closer!

Common Kestrel.

It was an excellent days birding with a huge variety of species seen:

 Northern Bald Ibis.

An individual from the re-introduction program.

Every individual is ringed.


One of the rarest breeding birds in Europe.

Mallard 325+; Shoveler 20; Red Legged Partridge 4; Quail, several heard; Pheasant, common; Great Cormorant 135; Cattle Egret 350+; Little Egret 25+; Great White Egret 1; Grey Heron 55+; White Stork 350+; Spoonbill45; Glossy Ibis 28; Bald Ibis 1; Greater Flamingo 60; Griffon Vulture 104; Short toed Eagle 7; Red Kite 1; Black Kite 22: Marsh Harrier 8; Hen Harrier 3; Common Buzzard 9; Sparrowhawk 2; Black winged Kite 1; Lesser Kestrel 1; Common Kestrel 10+; Peregrine 1; Moorhen heard; Purple Swamphen 2; Common Crane 3; Avocet 45+; Black winged Stilt 16; Stone Curlew 5; Ringed Plover 2; Kentish Plover 18; Grey Plover 3; Golden Plover 75; Dunlin 8; Green Sandpiper 7; Redshank 13; Greenshank 2; Common Snipe 2; Black headed Gull 65+; Yellow legged Gull 15; Audouin's Gull 65; Lesser Black backed Gull 1; Rock Dove, common; Woodpigeon common; Little Owl 2; Pallid Swift 16+; Hoopoe 3; Crested Lark 35; Calandra Lark 5; Sand Martin 30; House Martin 5; Barn Swallow 700+; Red rumped Swallow 1; Meadow Pipit 17; White Wagtail 13; Yellow Wagtail 2; Black Redstart 1; Northern Wheatear 1; Stonechat 15; Blackbird 1; Song Thrush 1; Zitting Cisticola 30: Chiffchaff 25; Woodchat Shrike 2; Jackdaw 200+; Raven 2; Spotless Starling 45; Spanish Sparrow 2; House Sparrow common; Linnet 100 & Goldfinch 700+.

 Wonderful to see this species breeding
 once again in Europe.
 They were first introduced to military land 
a few kilometers away.
But after a couple of years, all the birds moved
 en mass to this location of their own choosing.
 They are breeding here & numbers are increasing.
 It is nice to report on a conservation success story.

The highlight of the day was a visit to the cliffs where 40 Bald Ibis were roosting. A small number of birds were introduced to a nearby military site a few years ago. However, the birds moved to this new location after a couple of years & started breeding! According to Ian they are doing very nicely.
One of the rarest breeding birds in Europe breeding right above a busy road! We arrived back in Gibraltar well after dark after enjoying a great day's birding in Spain.

Looking towards north Africa.

Looking towards Windmill Hill.

The 10th March was a lovely spring day, but with little wind, so few raptors made the crossing across the Straits. I walked up the hill to the Bird Observatory but it was very quiet. In the next two hours I saw:

Black Kite 22; European Sparrowhawk 4; Booted Eagle 2; Short toed Eagle 7.

There was a small passage of non raptors including:

Pallid Swift 16; Barn Swallow 3; Sand Martin 8; Red rumped Swallow 1; House Martin 41 & Serin 12.
The walk around the side of the Rock.
The Mediterranean Steps.
The walk up is very varied, amid spectacular scenery.

I once again walked up to the Observatory on 11th March. But passage was non existent, so I used the opportunity to walk the Mediterranean Steps to the top of the Rock. It was a wonderful walk amid great & spectacular coastal scenery.

The easy way to the top! 
I walked!

Yellow legged Gull, which is abundant in these parts.

Barbary Macaque.
Not as innocent as they look!

Rob's apartment complex, as seen from the flank
 of  The Rock.

 At the top I met lots of tourists & of course the famous Barbary Macaques. Saw Blue Rock Thrush & a few Sardinian Warblers. I then walked down & met up with Rob & visited Europa Point. Only 3 Mediterranean Gulls & a Whimbrel were noteworthy.

The Pillars of Hercules.

It looks impressive, but it is made of plastic!
Of course, the original was
 actually fictitious!

The 12th March once again dawned with brilliant sunshine & no wind! great for tourists but not for seeing raptors! Walked up to the observatory, but nothing doing. In three hours there saw 9 Red rumped Swallow & 2 Barn Swallow fly north.  Walked back down & watched the rugby on the TV. Penny arrived early evening & we all went out for a nice meal.

13th March got up quite late & spent time in the flat with Penny & Rob. My last day in Gibraltar & no birds! Nearby Tarifa in Spain appears o be a much better bet for seeing raptors on a more consistent basis, as it is less reliant on the wind direction.

I left Gibraltar on the morning of the 14th March & arrived back at Nicci’s mid-afternoon.

1 comment:

  1. Steve - just saw you on a film - Clockwise - do you remember being an extra on it? Around 1986?