Sunday, 25 July 2010

Day 5 – Tuesday 1st June – Alcalá de los Gazules – Benalup Bridge – La Janda – Embalse de Barbate – Los Naveros-Cantarranas Area

With an evening trip out for nightjars on the agenda, we opted for a light day today starting with a ‘proper’ breakfast on the terrace in addition the usual quick coffee and toast first thing. Hence the morning’s count of 9 Lesser Kestrel above the house was the highest of the trip (although substantially down on previous years). After such a leisurely start it wasn’t surprising that we only got out birding around 10:00 AM, but it was good for ‘Los Jublilados’ to have one relaxed morning!

Once out, we decided to have a look at the main part of La Janda, but first, with Spanish Sparrow still not ‘in the bag’, stopped at Benalup bridge for this scarce and sometimes elusive species. The bridge is a regular spot for Spanish Sparrow, but finding them amongst the thriving colony of House Sparrow can be a trial. With female type sparrows showing provocatively well but the males being rather more retiring, it proved a somewhat frustrating search. Fortunately, with perseverance, we all got good views of some striking male Spanish Sparrows (interestingly some House Sparrows showed signs of mixed genes). Also present here were Reed, Melodious and Cetti’s Warblers.

La Janda, despite being a very well known and highly rated site, is often surprisingly birdless if the conditions aren’t right. So it proved today with the well flooded rice paddies holding little more than Black-winged Stilts and Yellow-legged Gulls.

With the afternoon pressing on, time was now judged right for another ‘assault’ on the Cantarranas area. So we returned to the area we’d looked at on Saturday, but with the intention this time of staying until dark. Careful searching soon turned up an immaculate male Little Bustard and, after we’d shifted to maximise the light conditions, we obtained good views of this attractive species. Although the bird wasn’t doing his “leaping-in-the-air-as-I-blow-raspberries” routine, he was calling and his white chevron’d black chest was clearly bursting with pride at his smart appearance. He clearly felt good about himself and it wasn’t a sentiment we had any inclination to puncture – having espied this beauty, we felt much the same ourselves! It was then time to move onto higher ground again to search for Black-shouldered Kite - a regular crepuscular addition to the birding scene here. No sooner had we parked up, than one of these magical little birds put in an appearance precisely on schedule and exactly where expected. Despite being more distant than usual it was very rewarding to get a prediction so precisely correct! It was now time to drive downhill for a km or so and enter the old olive groves where Red-necked Nightjar provide the entertainment. Exactly on time, the birds revved up and let forth with their strange mechanical song. After a short hiatus, one of these ghostly birds drifted over the trees and did a circuit round us. We might have come to see them, but it always feels likes it’s the nightjars that are checking us out. More views followed of this enigmatic bird. Rarely have the jigsaw pieces fallen so neatly into place – it was arguably the best hour’s birding we’d had thus far. GB, whom we’d kept on tenterhooks for this lifer, was particularly well pleased!

No comments: