CONTENTS FORWARD & INTRODUCTION Top 5 sites When to visit Driving in Spain, Car Hire & Public Transport Road Maps Roads Leaflets Accommodation Birding Information, Visitors' Centres, Useful websites, Wi-fi, etc.
BIRDLIFE OF CÁDIZ PROVINCE HABITATS – Lakes, Marshes & Estuaries, Mountains & Forest, Farmland & Lowlands, Coastal sites & Seawatching.
RAPTOR PASSAGE, CALENDAR & MIGRATION FURTHER AFIELD
SITE GUIDE NW - INTRODUCTION TO NORTH-WEST CADIZ PROVINCE *** NW 1 - Chipiona Area – Chipiona, La Jara, etc *** NW 2 - Sanlucar – Bonanza - Trebujena Area * NW 2.1 - Sanlucar Promenade *** NW 2.2 - Bonanza Pools *** NW 2.3 - Bonanza Saltpans ** NW 2.4 - Laguna de Tarelo & Pinar de Monte Algaida ** NW 2.5 - Los Portugueses Salt Pans/Guadalquiver Marshes ** NW 2.6 - Marismas de Chapatal / Trebujena Marshes ** NW 3 - Mesa de Asta Marsh * NW 4 - Marismas de Casablanca ** NW 5 - Laguna de los Tollos ** NW 6 - Lagunas de Espera ** NW 7 - Lagunas de Lebrija (inc. Laguna de Cigarrera, Seville) ** NW 8 - Laguna de Medina
* NW 9 - Medina Sidonia – Paterna de Rivera area ** NW 10 - Lagunas de Puerto Real - Lagunas de Taraje, San Antonio & Comisario *** NW 11 - Lagunas del Puerto Santa Maria * NW 12 - Lagunas de Chiclana
Cadiz & Cadiz Bay (Bahía de Cádiz) * NW 13 - Cadiz town ** NW 14 - El Puerto de Santa Maria Area - Bahía de Cádiz (North) ** NW 14.1 - The ‘Inner’ Marshes ** NW 14.2 - Coto de la Isleta & Salinas de la Tapa * NW 14.3 - Marismas de los Toruños & Pinar de La Algaida ** NW 15 - San Fernando Marshes - Bahía de Cádiz (Centre) ** NW 15.1 - Tres Amigos Salt Pans
* NW 15.2 - Doleres Salt Pans ** NW 15.3 - Punta del Boqueron * NW 15.4 - Sendero Estero/Cano Carrascon * NW 15.5 - Playa de la Caseria ** NW 16 - Chiclana - Bahía de Cádiz (South) ** NW 16.1 - St Maria de Bartivas Salt Pans * NW 16.2 - Carboneros salt pans Los Gallos-Cerromolinos sendero ** NW 16.3 - Sancti Petri Village * NW 16.4 - Laguna de Paja
SW - INTRODUCTION TO SOUTH-WEST CADIZ PROVINCE * SW 1 - Embalse del Rio Barbate *** SW 2 - Benalup – Medina Sidonia Area ** SW 3 - Cantarranas * SW 4 - Los Naveros- Conil area ** SW 5 - Cape Trafalgar & Brena Pines nr. Vejer ** SW 6 - Barbate Estuary *** SW 7 - La Janda *** SW 8 - Bolonia - Atlanterra – Sierra de la Plata *** SW 9 -Tarifa Area
*** SW 9.1 -Tarifa and whale watching trips *** SW 9.2 - Playa de los Lances ** SW 9.3 - La Pena Area ** SW 9.4 - Santuario de la Luz *** SW 10 - Migration Watchpoints *** SW 10.1 - Trafico ** SW 10.2 - Cazalla ** SW 10.3 - Guadalmesi ** SW 10.4 - El Cabrito ** SW 10.5 - Mirador del Estrecho ** SW 10.6 - Puerto del Bujeo ** SW 10.7 - Huerte Grande *** SW 10.8 - El Algarrobo ** SW 11- Puntas Carnero & Secreta * SW 12 - Palmones Estuary ** SW 13 - Southern Alcornocales *** SW 14 - Ojen Valley ** SW 15 - Los Barrios Rubbish Tip ** SW 16 - Vejer Area
E - INTRODUCTION TO EAST CADIZ PROVINCE * E 1 - Lagos/Embalses de Arcos & Bornos ** E 2 - Los Alcornocales (North of A381)
** E 2.1 - Alcala de los Gazules & the Molinos Valley ** E 2.2 - El Picacho - Puerto Galis – Charco de los Hurones ** E2.3 - La Sauceda – Jimena (North) - Cadiz/Malaga ** E 3 - Grazalema
** E 3.1 - El Bosque – Grazalema * E 3.2 - Ubrique – Grazalema Road (A 2302) ** E 3.3 - Grazalema – Puerto de Palomas – Zahara – Grazalema Circuit ** E 3.4 - Mirador Mojon de Vibora - Cortes de la Frontera Area (Vulture Feeding Site) *** E 4 - Montejaque & Llanos de Libar (Malaga)
** E 4.1.-Benajoan - Montejaque *** E 4.2 - Llanos de Libar
* E 5 - Peñon de Zaframagón ** E 6 - Jimena de la Frontera (South)
** E 7 - Castillo de Castella * E 8 - Sotogrande
*E 9 – Mirador El Higueron & envrons of La Linea
Appendix 1 – Sites nearby in Seville, Malaga & Gibraltar i) Seville Province * SV 1 - Lebrija area *** SV 2 - Brazo del Este
*** SV 2.1 – 'Southern Marshes' *** SV 2.2 - ''Northern Marshes' ** SV 2.3 – Corta de los Olivillas *** SV 3 - Laguna de Mejorada * SV 4 - Lagunas de Utrera *** SV 5 - 'Steppe' farmlands of eastern Seville
** SV 5.1 - El Arahal – Marchena – Carmona Triangle *** SV 5.2 - Osuna farmlands *** SV 5.3 - La Lantejuela Area
ii) Malaga * M 1 – Casares – Rio Genal, Sierras de la Utrera & Crestellina ** M 2 - Rio Guadalhorce
iii) Gibraltar Appendix 2 – Notes on Selected Species (with phenological notes) Appendix 3 - 10 ideas for non-birding partners
BIRDING CADIZ PROVINCE FORWARD I wrote the first "edition" of these notes (although not in their current form) almost a decade ago and they have gradually evolved over that time into something far larger and detailed than I ever envisaged. Gradually I added more and more details until I found I'd written almost 60,000 words, drawn over 70 maps and covered eighty odd sites and sub-sites. The main section includes several sites that straddle provincial borders or are so close to the border that it's logistically better to cover them under 'Cadiz'. In addition I've added an appendix with further sites well into Seville and Malaga provinces plus Gibraltar (which is where visitors often fly into). Those in Seville have iconic birds â€“ Great Bustard, Pintailed & Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Roller, Rufous Bush Chat, etc. - difficult or impossible to see Cadiz province. Although distant, Spain's excellent motorway system makes them easily accessible (and for some will be only a minor detour if you arrive via Seville airport). These notes have now reached a fairly definitive form as, over the last few years, I have been able to ammend and update them several times a year to take into account new information or changes in status (see also my website). Please note that a change in my circumstances means that I am no longer able to visit and explore the area as I have in the past. As a consequence, these notes will no longer be so regularly updated. However, they were always meant to be interactive so if you have visited the area now, more than ever, I would appreciate feedback to keep them current and accurate. Although my policy is to make these notes freely available, I invite users to make a suitable donation to one of the following charities SEO (www.seo.org), the RSPB (www.rspb.org.uk ) or Birdlife International (www.birdlife.org ); please tell them the reason for the donation. I'd be very grateful if you could let me know too. I'm pretty self motivated working on this guide, but knowing I'd also raised some money for causes close to my heart would be a bonus. Those guides who have helped/encouraged/supported the production of this guide have been sent a copy and have been recommended in these notes. Unfortunately, other professional guides in the area have used these notes without the courtesy of an acknowledgement or giving any feedback which is disappointing. Presumably, they've not made any donation to one of the charities noted above either. Finally, if you use them then please acknowledge the fact in your trip report (if you write) one and send me a copy for my blog, Good birding,
John Cantelo â€“ July 2015
Disclaimer: Please note that whilst I have done my utmost to provide accurate and current information and describe only routes, trails and tracks that are safe to explore, things do change and I have not been able to revisit all sites regularly. Accordingly readers are strongly urged to check locally for current conditions and for any changes in circumstances. Note particularly that vehicular access to the Ojen valley (SW14) is now by permit only, that access to the Lllanos de Libar (E4.2) is restricted in the summer months and that the military seem to be cracking down of routes in SW 10 (& possibly elsewhere). I cannot accept responsibility for any loss, injury or inconveniences sustained by readers as a result of the information provided in this guide.
INTRODUCTION Cadiz has been called "probably the best (Spanish) province for a single-base.……birding visit" (Garcia & Patterson); in my view the only matter for dispute is that "probably"! The most popular option seems to be staying near Tarifa which is obviously very well placed to observe raptor migration. However, if you want variety then Tarifa is rather distant from the famous shallow freshwater lagunas that dot the northern half of the province, the wilder mountains of the northern Alcornocales & Grazalema or the marismas that form the south eastern rim of the Coto Doñana. If you're not visiting the area simply for the raptor passage then consider staying somewhere more central (e.g. Vejer de la Fronteras, Medina Sidonia, Alcalá de los Gazules or even Jerez) It would need a small book to give a full account of the birds of this area and, fortunately, one is available -"Guia de Aves del Estrecho de Gibraltar / Birds of the Straits of Gibraltar" (Pub: Ornitour ISBN 846074545-7). This bilingual guide provides an excellent review of birds found in the southern part of the province, a local atlas and doubles up as a very useful field guide. Graphs, showing the detailed pattern of arrivals & departures for migrant species, are especially helpful. Although it's difficult to get a 'hard copy' in the UK, it can also be read and downloaded from http://www.birdcadiz.com/guia-de-aves-del-estrecho-degibraltar. Unfortunately, it does not cover the northern half of Cadiz (or nearby provinces) so some comments about a species' general status cannot be applied beyond the book's relatively narrow remit. This particularly applies to wetland species as several species, rare or absent from the study area, can be easily found just a little further north or east (e.g. White-headed Duck). The same team have produced "Birds of the Natural Park ‘Sierra de Grazalema’" which covers the 130 commonest species of the area. "Birdwatching Guide to Southern Spain", is much less useful, but does contain a good overview of the status of birds in southern Spain. A more recent book (2007) is ‘Nomads of the Strait of Gibraltar’ by Fernando Barrios Partida which is not a guidebook as such, but a beautifully illustrated homage to this spectacular area. For a magisterial overview of the status of birds of Spain and Portugal see the superb 'The Birds of the Iberian Peninsula' by Eduardo de Juana and Ernest Garcia (Helm 2015). At £60 it's not cheap, but if you have a serious interest in the ornithology of Spain it's an unavoidable purchase. The notes that follow are based many visits since buying a small house in Alcalá de los Gazules in 2005. These have varied from a dozen or so short ‘serious’ birding trips (in February, April and May & September) plus many gentler birding jaunts with my (non-birding) wife. Although passage periods and early summer are the ‘must visit’ times, birding on a warm winter’s day can be superb; La Janda, for example, holds wintering raptors (inc. Black-winged Kite) and Cranes. One advantage of a winter trip is that whilst the UK may be bitterly cold, the mild climate in Cadiz province can make it feel like a balmy May day in England (although it can still be chilly at night). It’s also worth remembering that migration starts early in southern Spain with some “summer visitors” arriving (if they depart at all) in February and that, for some, numbers peak in March. For further details on birding sites in the area, the reader is referred to the increasing number of very useful books. The third edition (2008) of "Where to Watch Birds in Southern & Western Spain" by Garcia & Paterson has been thoroughly updated and includes several new sites; quite simply required reading for the ornitho-hispanophile! It also includes a good appendix on the status of birds in the area. Lynx edicions has recently (2006) published two excellent guidebooks "Where to watch birds in Spain: the 100 best sites" (Montero et al) and "Where to Watch birds in Doñana" (Chiclana & Garzón). Although the first covers the whole country, it includes five sites in the area. Of these four sites are wholly in Cadiz province - Laguna de Medina, Sanlucar de Barrameda, Straits of Gibraltar and Bahía de Cadiz - and one, Grazelama, is shared with Malaga. The second Lynx guide, obviously, covers the Coto Donana, but, less obviously, includes a number of sites on the eastern bank of the Guadalquivir. A Spanish team wrote both books so they are thoroughly detailed and up to date (although, naturally, more orientated to a Spanish market than a British one). "Birdwatching on Spain's Southern Coast" by John Butler has many excellent suggestions and tips. Despite John Butler’s untimely death, his “A Birdwatching Guide to Doñana” has recently been published (see - www.trafford.com/07-0594). An additional book, Malcolm Palmer's "Birdwatching Guide to Southern Spain", is much less useful, but does contain a good overview of the status of birds in southern Spain.
A selection of available leaflets
The "Travellers' Nature Guide: Spain" (Farino & Lockwood) has a wider scope dealing both with the whole of Spain and a broader context as all aspects of Natural History are touched upon. Nonetheless, this is an extremely valuable guide for birders, even
the most monomanic ones. (Unfortunately, this superb book is currently out of print – so snap one up if you see it second-hand!). The Crossbill Guides (www.crossbillguides.org), newcomers to this market, also take a broad ecological approach to the areas that they cover. As well as a detailed overview of the wildlife to be found in a given area, they include suggested itineraries (by car and on foot). This expanding series includes two books on this part of Spain. "The Nature Guide to the Coto Doñana" (2005) is an excellent general primer on the wildlife of the Coto Doñana including some sites on the east bank of the Guadalquivir. "The Nature Guide to the Andalusian Sierras from Malaga to Gibraltar" (2007), which deals with the Alcornocales, Grazelema and the Ronda area, is the best English language guide to the wildlife of these mountains. However, I would say that as I edited (and wrote some sections of) this book with Dutch naturalist Dirk Hilbers. I am currently part of a Crossbill team putting together a two-volume "The Nature Guide to Andalucia" (which should appear early in 2017). The staff in the office of the Parque Natural los Alcornocales (now next the the visitors center just off the A 381 – see below) are helpful, but speak very little English. Much of the same information can be found at the visitors’ centre for the park (which is just off the A381 on the Alcalá de los Gazules – Benalup road). However, permission to walk certain paths can only be given by the park office. The visitors' centre also has a very good exhibition on the park (with a guide book in English). Both offices have a very handy, and free, bilingual ornithological map of the park (produced by Ornitour) and pamphlets (mainly in Spanish) describing walks in the park. The information office for the Parque Natural La Brena & Barbate (just inside the dock gate in Barbate) has an interesting display on the area and helpful staff (some of whom speak English). A new (2013), free 145 page booklet called 'Birds from the Coast of Trafalgar' gives an excellent overview of birding in the area and contains details of a dozen birding routes. There's a leaflet on these routes and details are available also on the web at www.visitatrafalgar.com/en/birdwatching. The local government (Junta de Andalucía) controls an impressive number of reserves in the area – most of the small lagoons, for example, are under their supervision. Several have clearly attracted funding to improve facilities (although these seem to be aimed more at walkers/tourists than birdwatchers). However, whilst money is spent on the infrastructure, routine management, maintenance and care often seems neglected. Hence hides, even when well sited, due to neglect, may be largely screened by trees (e.g. Lagunas de Espera). However, there is an increasing awareness of ornithological tourism which may pay dividends in the future. The local government has recently published leaflets (in English) to birdwatching in the Bay of Cadiz and ‘nature routes’ from Jerez. The severe economic problems in Spain (2010 onwards) have had a severe impact on provision for wildlife with even the famous Migres programme being decimated (2012). So in brief the three ‘must buy’ bird guides to the area are:Where to Watch Birds in Southern & Western Spain (3rd Edition) by Garcia & Patterson (2008) Where to Watch birds in Doñana by Chiclana & Garzon (Lynx). Guia de Aves del Estrecho de Gibraltar/Birds of the Straits of Gibraltar (OrniTour) Plus for all round wildlife information and much more: The Nature Guide to the Sierras of the South (Crossbill) And for the true devotee:'The Birds of the Iberian Peninsula' by Eduardo de Juana and Ernest Garcia (Helm 2015).
Top 5 sites For those that may find, with reason, this account too long and wordy or have very limited time, I have listed below my ‘top 5 sites’. These cover the main habitats and most of the ‘key’ species.
1 – Bonanza NW2 2 – Laguna Medina NW7 (despite recent problems this site remains the most conveniently placed laguna to visit) 3 – Bolonia & Sierra de la Plata SW8
4 – Migration Watchpoints SW 13 (esp SW13.1) 5 - Montejaque & Llanos de Libar E4 When to visit? Although we Brits have a vision of southern Spain as a place of everlasting warmth and sunshine, it does get cold in the winter when rain can be both heavy and persistent. Grazalema, surprisingly for many, is actually the wettest place in Spain. As it happens the early 2000s experienced a very dry run of winters, brought to an abrupt end by the heavy deluges of the winter of 2009/10 and again in 2010/2011. Even so, between November and March it can be, and often is, pleasantly warm and balmy during the day. Temperatures can drop to near freezing in Dec/Jan and nights (and early mornings) in particular can be surprisingly chilly. Nonetheless, spring starts early in this part of the world. Increasingly, many ‘summer visitors’ don’t leave entirely (e.g. Swallows, Lesser Kestrel, Short-toed & Booted Eagles, etc) and those that do head south reappear in February (or earlier – Great-spotted Cuckoos may return in December as do a small, but increasing, number of Black Kites!). Mass migration of birds of prey begins in February and by March numbers can be quite substantial. However, not all winter visitors leave equally early. Accordingly, in ‘late winter’ a birder has the prospect of watching, usually in bright sunshine, a delightful mixture of wintering birds such as Cranes and ‘summer’ visitors like ‘Yellow’ Wagtail, Red-rumped Swallow, Pallid Swift, etc. Summer too arrives early and many birds will have young in March/April whilst by May it can be scorchingly hot, and birds relatively inactive. However, late April/early May can be the best time to look for sought after late comers like Rufous Bushchat and Western Olivaceous Warbler (aka Isabelline Warbler). Summer can be stiflingly hot and smaller species hard to see, but with perseverance, an excellent time can be had especially if you follow the birds and get up early. ‘Autumn’ too starts early with significant raptor passage in August although, come September, they are flooding through (this is a peak time for Rüppell’s Vulture). This is also a good time for small passerine migrants with birds like Pied Flycatcher appearing in good numbers. October/November can see massive ‘vis mig’ of larks, hirundines, etc (but this is also the time when bird trappers are out en masse). In short, you can have a terrific birding break at any time of the year although a trip in April or September will probably net you most species and one in mid-summer (June/July/early August) may be tiresomely hot and the birding tougher. Then again, being here seeing good birds in warm February sunshine when you know others are shivering at home can be smugly satisfying!
Getting there Continental birders have the advantage of being able to drive directly down to Spain. Brits who do so generally go via Brittany Ferries (see www.brittany-ferries.co.uk) who sail out of Portsmouth and Plymouth to Santander/Bilbao. The drive down to Cadiz province takes another 8+ hours driving time (assuming you don't stop in Extremadura). It is possible to drive from Calais – c20 hours driving time – but inevitable additional stopovers probably make it a more expensive option overall. Flying and car hire is the most usual option for birders. Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) fly into Jerez is very convenient since it's at the centre of the province. Easyjet ( www.easyjet.com) and Monarch (www.monarch.co.uk) fly into Gibraltar which, in theory, should be as convenient as Jerez (more so if based at Tarifa). However, in windy conditions flights can be diverted to Malaga causing delays and additional travel. Both Ryanair and Easyjet fly to Seville and, although more distant from Cadiz, has the advantage that you can look for bustards etc en route near Osuna. All three, and many other companies, fly into Malaga which is about the same travel time from the area as Seville. Flights to Malaga tend not to be reduced off season as much as elsewhere and if you use the main road to drive to Cadiz then tolls (much greater than via Seville) add to the cost.
Driving in Spain, Car Hire & Public Transport Spanish drivers share all the faults of their British counterparts (e.g. speeding, use of mobile phones, etc.) but the accident rate is somewhat higher than in the UK. I avoid driving through villages I don't know as broad boulevards can quickly turn into narrow car lined rat runs or, worse, dead-ends. The prevalence of scraped and dented cars inclines one to caution when parking and it's always wise to fold in your wing mirrors! The biggest danger comes when negotiating roundabouts as Spanish drivers appear to be taught to take the outer lane even when taking the last exit. Be aware that some motorists may assume that indicating left, particularly where there's no obvious turning, is an invitation to overtake so take great care when turning across a traffic lane onto a farm track. Be mindful too that in late May the Jerez motorbike Grand Prix causes a huge influx of motorcyclists not all of whom pay heed to speed limits. However, motorways are, by
British standards, lightly used apart from in the vicinity of larger towns (e.g. Seville, Cadiz) and minor roads are very lightly used indeed. The cost of car hire in Spain has risen in recent years, but split between 3-4 birders isn't prohibitive. I always hire cars through 'Do You Spain' (www.doyouspain.com) which trawls through various companies to get the best rate andn provides a English speaking support service for customers. Don't leave it too late to book a car as doing so may prove difficult. (Note – in spring 2012, despite checking well in advance, I found it impossible to rent a car in La Linea/Gibraltar from a reasonably priced company only pricey Hertz/Avis cars – so check first if flying into Gibraltar). Many hire companies put stickers on the back window announcing to the world that yours is a hire car. I always remove them (they can usually be stuck back on) as hire cars are far more likely to suffer break-ins. Not that I've had a problem but this is a real difficulty at sites like Rio Guadlhorce in Malaga Province. Note that at least one hire car company – Recordgo (Malaga) - has a policy in the small print requiring users to return the car to the point of hire after 2,000km for a replacement vehicle and levy a charge of 2€ per km (or more) for each 'excess' km driven – resulting in a hefty additional charge. Stopping on asphalted roads edged by a white line may incur a 90€ fine (reduced to 45€ if paid within 20 days). Fines may be paid at any post office (Oficina de Correos). As I know to my cost, don't think a remote scarcely used road will make you immune from the attentions of the Guardia Civil in this matter. The temptation to skip off home without paying is strong, but car hire companies, which have your details, may levy the full amount plus handling charges if you do so. Pulling over on a gravel track, however, should not be a problem. Please respect signs that ban unauthorised motor vehicles from many small tracks. The situation around Tarifa is complicated by many roads/tracks being signposted as 'restricted' military roads which, for the most part, is no longer the case (although some still are!) Birding without a car is problematical, but bus services reach (but don't necessarily conveniently return from) the most out of way villages. If your focus is on raptor migration then staying in Tarifa and using local buses is quite viable. Bus timetables for the area can be found at www.tgcomes.es and www.linesur.com . For train services go to www.renfe.com . Bicycle hire is possible in many popular resorts and remember that even quite small villages may have taxi service (it's often best to enquire in bars).
Road Maps Those raised on the availability and, moreover, the certainties of OS mapping in the UK will find Spanish maps a trial. Firstly decent large scale maps are hard to come by since there are relatively few bookshops in Spain and even fewer of them sell a range of good large scale maps; several bookshops in Cádiz do so as does Libería Agricola de Jerez (www.agricolajerez.com) which is near the bullring in Jerez. Stanfords (Convent Garden, London – www.stanfords.co.uk) is a better source than most Spanish shops - but at a premium price. The Junta de Andalucia produce good quality maps of most national parks (e.g. the Coto Doñana, the Alcornocales. Grazalema, the Straits of Gibraltar & Cadiz Bay ) usually a 1:50,000 scale. A number of walking guides for Grazalema come with good maps – the best of these is that produced by Penibetica (www.penibetica.com). Various other larger scale maps are available with the best of the bunch being Geo/Estel's map of the Costa de la Luz (1:150,000), but it can be hard to find. However, none of these are entirely reliable and many of the roads marked may be private, restricted to military use or even nonexistent! Other roads which are shown as decent metalled routes are no more than tracks (e.g. the Ojen valley road) whilst other much better roads aren't shown at all! It is often useful to compare maps against the realities found on Google Earth. Road designation in Spain is horrendously confused – I have tried to use current road numbers as shown by Google Maps, but some old road numbers are still displayed so some inconsistency may have crept in. I also recommend using the ‘GoogleMaps’ “Streetview” for checking out roads/directions – for all but minor tracks it gives you panoramic views of the roads/junctions. (Just go to ‘GoogleMaps’, click on the little yellow figure and drag onto the map). Wikiloc has also proved very useful for checking footpaths (in GoogleEarth click on ‘Gallery’ - ‘wikiloc’ is one of the options) Roads Spain now has a network of fast and often, by UK standards, lightly used motorways. Despite improvements in recent years minor roads are not always so well built or maintained. Spanish authorities seem to follow the ‘layer cake’ of road building – if repairs are needed just slap another layer of tarmac on! This means, over time, previously accessible places to pull off are now edged by a daunting small cliff of tarmac making stopping difficult (esp. in the mountains). Toll roads are quick, but can be expensive (esp. to & from Malaga).
NOTE - Treat all published statements, including my own, about the navigability of tracks with caution as gravel tracks quickly degenerate due to their poor surface and a lack of maintenance. I'd guess resurfaced gravel tracks have a 'shelf-life' as a decent easily drivable route of no more than 4-5 years (depending on loc ation and the severity of winter rains). This means what was perfectly drivable in the past may now be a potholed obstacle course, but poor gravel tracks can be quickly repaired and even the worst can become an easy drive. Heavy rains in the winters of 2009/2010/2011 have seriously damaged many gravel/dirt tracks roads (and even some metalled roads) and drivers use them at their own risk. I’ve had an exhaust badly damaged and others have damaged sumps, suspensions, etc. Also be aware that driving such basic gravel tracks may be in breach of your hire car agreement. .
Leaflets (Downloadable) There are an increasing number of leaflets, many of them available for download on birdwatching sites or walks in Cadiz province. Most are produced by the same company and can be seen (and downloaded) via their website ( http://adsise.com / ) . Although most of these downloads are in Spanish, they still contain valuable and usable information for a monoglot English speaker. English versions can be found at http://adsise.com/? p=900&lang=en-uk, They cover Cadiz Bay, Alcornocales, Grazalema, Los Lances, Bolonia, the Parque del Estrecho, Brena and Barbate area. There is also a nice little booklet called “Nature Routes from Jerez” which can also be downloaded from – see http://www.turismojerez.com/index.php? id=2253&L=1 As mentioned above the booklet on the Trafalgar area can be downloaded from www.visitatrafalgar.com/en/birdwatching. A series of leaflets, in Spanish , can be downloaded from http://adsise.com. They cover the following sites/subjects:- Estrecho - http://adsise.com/?p=900&lang=es-es - Bird guide to Cadiz Bay - http://adsise.com/?p=25&lang=es-es - Brena & Barbate - http://adsise.com/?p=1248&lang=es-es http://adsise.com/?p=1248&lang=es-es & http://adsise.com/?p=354&lang=en-uk - Brena in colour - http://adsise.com/?p=354&lang=es-es - Los Lances - http://adsise.com/?p=46&lang=es-es - Alcornocales - http://adsise.com/?p=21&lang=en-uk The Junta de Andalucia also a range of walking guides in Spanish which are available from Visitors’ Centres. In addition a very useful booklet covering 300 footpaths in Cadiz (in Spanish) can be seen and downloaded at http://issuu.com/cadizturismo/docs/300senderoscadiz .
Accommodation Owning a small house in Alcala de los Gazules, I rarely use alternative accommodation. See websites like www.tripadvisor.com for suggestions for where to stay. However, those wishing to stay in a comfortable small hotel might like to try “La Botica” guest house in Vejer de la Frontera (www.laboticadevejer.com) whose owner, Enrique Ysasi, offers a free day birding in the area (out of high season) to those who stay for 3 or more days. (Note – the trade-off here is that the hotel is in the centre of Vejer without easy vehicular access). The main hotel in Alcala de los Gazules – Hotel San Jorge - www.hotel-sanjorge.com was pleasant enough when I stayed there some years ago and those at the nearby service station (see www.lapalmosa.com) would be more convenient for a quick exit in the morning. In the village an English couple run a reasonably priced, but luxurious B&B - Antigua Fonda (see http://alcalagazules.com) – which comes highly recommended. If you do book here then by all means mention my name – you won't get a discount, but the owner, Tony, might buy me a drink! If you’re prepared to stay in hostel style accommodation then you have several options. Should you want to stay in Los Alcornocales Natural Park itself then there is a hostel at the foot of El Picacho (see www.elpichacho.es). It may also be possible to organise access to the nearby vulture feeding station. A more convenient and more comfortable hostel, especially if you want to witness the raptor migration, is the “Youth” Hostel (“Albergue-Inturjoven Sur de Europa”) between Algeciras and Tarifa (see www.inturjoven.com). This right above the main raptor migration route and a whiteboard there is updated with the day’s movements; views across to Morocco are stunning. Another option is booking into one of the ‘campsites with chalets’ in the area. These chalets sleep 4-6 in reasonable comfort and have adequate, if basic, cooking facilities (although a cafeteria is usually also available). I have stayed in one at ‘Camping Gazules’ in the Molinos valley (which now has Wi-Fi) near Alcala de los Gazules (www.campinglosgazules.com). Huerte Grande (see http://www.huertagrande.com/ )
is equally well placed as the youth hostel (above) and offers accommodation in small chalets and larger houses. In addition the wooded valley attracts passerine migrants and the nearby there’s an excellent educational centre (run by Ornitour). If you prefer to stay in the Jimena area try “Camping Los Alcornocales” (www.campinglosalcornocales.com). If you’ve just won the lottery another option is ‘La Almoraima’ (www.laalmoraimahotel.com) a former 17thC convent transformed into a luxurious 4 star hotel just north of Gibraltar. Even if you’re not staying there you can book on a 4x4 trip round their private estate. At 15€ per person (4 per car) this is no better for birds than elsewhere, but is excellent for Red, Fallow and Roe Deer.
Birding Information & Useful websites Andalucía Bird Society If you’re interested in birding in Andalucía then please consider joining the Andalucia Bird Society (www.andaluciabirdsociety.com). Even if you merely have a passing interest then you would find the website (plus its forum and facebook page - both open to non-members) a great place to enquire about the region and its birds.
Trip Reports http://alcalabirding.blogspot.com & http://birdingcadizprovince.weebly.com/ – I have archived several of my trip reports both on my old blog and my new one (see also below) which should give a flavour of birding in this area. The latter blog also has links to various other trip reports. There are many sites with birding trip reports – two I’ve found most useful are www.travellingbirder.com & www.camacdonald.com, but a quick search will reveal may more
Birding Information & Useful websites Birds:http://birdingcadizprovince.weebly.com/ - this is my new (2011) webpage on the area – I will be posting updates, trip reports, photos, notes on ID, etc. http://www.andaluciabirdsociety.com/ – the recently established Andalucía Bird Society website is a good place to start particularly if you want detailed information about the region and its birds. http://andalucianguides.blogspot.com/ - Stephen Daly (see also below) extremely useful and interesting blog http://datosmigres.blogspot.com/ - a new (2011) blog giving daily updates of raptor migration
http://adsise.com/ - for downloadable leaflets (see earlier). www.gbnet.gi/~gonhs - Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society's site; a good source of information esp. on migrating raptors. www.rarebirdspain.net - frequently updated site on rare birds in Spain (in English & Spanish) http://www.trektellen.nl/ - regularly has details of sightings at Cazalla and Algarrobo. www.fondacionmigres.org for information on this area & raptor migration (in Spanish) http://birding-the-costa.blogspot.com/ - Andy Patterson’s informative blog on SW Spain www.seo.org - website of "Sociedad Española de Ornitholgia" (mainly in Spanish, but with a useful overview of raptor migration in English see www.seo.org/programa_seccion_ficha.cfm? idPrograma=11&idArticulo=672 for 2005) www.ornitour.com - the organisation that has produced several guidebooks to the birds of the area. http://cocn.tarifainfo.com/central.html – website of the Colectivo Ornitológico Cigüeña Negra – Cocn – which works to conserve Black Storks http://avesdelsur.wordpress.com/about/the-website/ - Oli Reville's website 'Birding in Cadiz & Malaga' covers all the main sites in Cadiz province plus parts of Malaga not dealt with here.
Other helpful sites include:- www.turmares.com – I’ve found this to be the best of the whale watching companies
www.plegadis.net – a company offering various environmental services (founded by Beltran de Ceballos, one of the leading lights of Spanish ornithology). http://www.turismojerez.com – for good information on the Jerez area and beyond www.atunalmadraba.com – see for boat trips linked to the Tuna industry (potential for shearwaters, etc)
Spanish Bird Atlases In recent years Spain has benefited distribution surveys which give an excellent idea of bird distribution and, as they also show provincial boundaries, are very helpful in illuminating exactly where different species can be found. Both the Spanish breeding and wintering bird atlases (Atlas de las aves reproductoras de España & Atlas de las aves en invierno en España 2007-2010) can be seen & downloaded from www.magrama.gob.es – just type in “atlas aves” into the site's search (buscar) box.
Internet & Wi-Fi Access to the internet allows you to check the weather forecast (invaluable for raptor watching) and the excellent www.rarebirdspain.net. Many hotels (and some camp sites), numerous cafes, etc. now offer a free internet connection or free access to Wi-Fi to guests or customers. The petrol company, CEPSA, also offers Wi-Fi connection. Look out for 'Wi-Fi' signs, but always ask in bars/cafes as not all put up signs. However, it's not always easy to find a handy Wi-Fi provider so it makes sense to try and check out availability before you go. If visiting Alcala de los Gazules the 'Flamenco Bar' opposite the church at the top of the village has Wi-Fi, and if you sit outside offers good views of Lesser Kestrel and, in the evening, a chance of Barn Owl which nest in the church tower. If you're in luck the owner, Jorge, and his friends will provide free musical entertainment.
Professional Bird Guides If short of time, confidence, expertise or you want it ‘on a plate’, I’d recommend the following local guides:Peter Jones is based near Ronda (Malaga Province) and has an intimate knowledge of the area. His webpage also contains a wealth of information on the region (see www.spanishbirds.com). He also has access to hides for bird photography. Peter is a great birder/naturalist and one of the nicest, kindest people I know whose only flaw is to support West Ham. Yeray Seminario (firstname.lastname@example.org) & Javi Elorriaga (email@example.com) – both world class birders and fluent English speakers have recently combined forces to form 'Birding the Strait' (birdingthestrait.com) which runs birding/photography tours in Spain & Morocco. Yeray is also a partner in Whitehawk Birding (http://whitehawkbirding.com). Javi Elorriagais (see also Tarifa Bird Tours http://tarifabirdingtours.com/ & https://www.facebook.com/javi.elorriaga ) is THE expert on cirtensis Longlegged Buzzard. Both are great company LuisMi Garrido Padillo is a personal friend so I'm biased , but he's great company and expert birder/photographer based in Jerez. His newly established company Andalusian Birding Holidays (http://andalusianbirdingholidays.com/en/) specialises in walking senderos, birdwatching and, particularly, bird photography. Access to specially provided hides. Andrew Fortuna, based in Gibraltar, offers birdwatching tours, bird photography & digiscoping workshops and nature walks in Gibraltar & Spain & Morocco. Although we keep missing one another in t he field, Andrew and I have been in correspondence for a couple of years now and his tours get very positive feedback. See his website http://www.aviantours.net/ Luis Alberto Rodriguez – if you're based on the Costa del Sol then I recommend contacting Luis Alberto who speaks good English, knows the area well and has gained a good reputation asa guide to the area – see www.birdaytrip.es
Natural Park Visitors ’ Centres There are a number of new, useful vistors’ centres for the main natural parks in the area all of which have leaflets on walks, wildlife, maps etc:• Alcornocales – an exhibition & vistors’ centre is off exit 42 on the A381 a short way towards Benalup (i.e. near Alcala de los Gazules • Estrecho – take the track inland just south of Hotel Puntasur on the N 340/E 5 (or c400m north along the road from Torre de la Pena north of Tarifa). There is also a good new centre with a focus on migration Centro de Visitantes Huerta Grande – in El Pelayo (just west of Algeciras). • La Breña y Marismas de Barbate – this centre is hidden away in Barbate harbour off the Caňos de Mecca road (100m to the left as you enter the westernmost gate to the docks); stocks the excellent booklet 'Birds from the Trafalgar Coast'). • Cadiz Bay – there are two centres here. The principal one is in San Fernando at the start of Punta del Boqueron and the other is Ave del Mare in Valedelagrana
• Grazalema – the ‘poor cousin’ of other centres being small, under resourced and alone in not being in a purpose built building, this centre (in Plaza de Pequena). Unfortunately, it is no longer run by the very knowledgeable and helpful British naturalist, Clive Muir but see his website www.wildsideholidays.co.uk/ . Despite OFTEN being available only in Spanish (or fractured “Costa English”) the leaflets at these centres are very useful directing you to good footpaths and walking routes.
BIRDLIFE OF CÁDIZ PROVINCE HABITATS Lakes, Marshes & Estuaries
Laguna de Medina These three slightly different habitats have many species in common, but in a different balance (plus some species unique to each habitat). A series of shallow natural lagoons dot the countryside in an arc to the west of Cadiz. Unfortunately, many shallow lakes have disappeared altogether due to the abstraction of water to feed the intensification of agriculture in the area (and many ‘lagunas’ named on GoogleEarth clearly no longer exist). These lagunas are home to specialities like Black-necked Grebe, Ferruginous Duck, White-headed Duck, Purple Gallinule & particularly Crested Coot. Numerous small ‘agricultural’ reservoirs have sprung up throughout the area and some of these are gradually silting up and may provide habitat for birds although most are inaccessible. For example, one small lake, sometimes worth a quick look if you're passing, is beside the A381’s ‘servicio road’ (c1km north of junction 24). I’ve had Red-crested Pochard, White Stork, Little Ringed Plover etc. here, but others have reported White-headed Duck and even Crested Coot. Several large reservoirs (embalse) have also been developed in recent years and, although they tend to hold less exciting birds than 'natural' waters, they can attract various species. The Embalse de Bornos (just west of Arcos) is reckoned to be the pick of the bunch although, following a reintroduction programme, two pairs of Osprey now breed on Embalse de Barbate (south of Alcalá). Note that, particularly following drier winters, many lagunas (& marshes) dry out leaving nothing except a shallow pan of sun hardened mud by July/August. If wetland birds are your target, come in spring. The east bank of Guadalquivir has some fantastic wetlands which support many marshland birds as well as being one of the best areas to look for Spanish Imperial Eagle. Another interesting habitat is saline marshland (esp. those near Cadiz and Trebujena) and the star bird here is Lesser Short-toed Lark. The small, shallow lakes are particularly noted for the White-headed Duck and Marbled Teal. Other interesting water birds present here may include Flamingo, Purple Gallinule, Black-necked Grebe, all the usual species of duck (including Red-crested Pochard) and a large population of exotic herons (e.g. Little Bittern, Little & Cattle Egrets, Night, Purple, Squacco and Great White Herons). Gull-billed, Whiskered and Caspian Terns occur, as does Slender-billed Gull. All familiar British waders are to be found, but may joined by Collared Pratincole, Black-winged Stilt, and, less often, Marsh Sandpiper in the appropriate season.
As ever in this part of Spain the skies need to be scanned constantly for passing vultures, small eagles, harriers and kestrels (both species). Penduline Tit has bred, but more are present in the winter reedbeds when they are also joined by Bluethroat. This habitat is also home to various warblers; resident Cetti's and summer visitors such as the abundant Great Reed and the very scarce Savi's Warbler. Tamarisk tangles around lagunas are the place to look for the scarce (Western) Olivaceous Warbler.
Mountain & forest
Grazalema from above Ubrique The lush wooded valleys of Alcornocales, Grazelema and other sierras are one of the great treasures of the area. The Alcornocales are sandstone and home to the largest cork forest in the world. Here woodland species such as Nuthatch, Robin, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Firecrest, Longtailed, Great, Blue, Coal and Crested Tits and Jay give the woods an almost 'northern' feel. However, the local chiffchaffs are now generally recognised as a distinct species â€“ Iberian Chiffchaff â€“ whilst the local race of Green Woodpecker seems to be heading that way. Bonelli's Warbler are common and the treecreepers here are of the Short-toed variety. Open and rocky areas have a more 'Mediterranean' feel with Blue Rock Thrush, Dartford Warbler, Blackeared Wheatear, Rock Bunting and Thekla Lark all being widespread. Grazalema, a limestone area to the north-east is the stronghold for Iberian Grey Shrike and Black Wheatear. Alpine Accentor winter here and may sometimes breed. Grazalema also has a varied population of warblers including Subalpine, Orphean and Spectacled. (Common) Rock Thrush breeds sparsely in Grazalema. The skies above should be checked for raptors such as Griffon and Egyptian Vultures, Booted, Shorttoed, Bonelli's (esp. Grazalema), Spanish Imperial and Golden Eagles (latter two species are scarce). Most swifts are Common, but Alpine are widespread and White-rumped occur. The usual hirundines are supplemented by Crag Martin. Lowland woodlands have Red-necked Nightjars. An isolated population of Azure-winged Magpie, the only one in the province, is found in Pinar de Monte Algaida, near Sanlucar de Barrameda.
Farmland and Lowland Habitats
Little Bustard habitat near Benalup Although farmland (including olive groves) is less attractive ornithologically than other habitats, it does hold some particularly interesting species. The open or lightly wooded areas (dhesa) attract Black-winged Kite.
Formerly a rare vistor this species is increasing rapidly in this region; 50+ pairs, and probably many more, breed. They can be seen in almost any area of lowland farmland or light woodland (excepting, perhaps, extensive vineyards). Although they may be seen near Alcala, Benalup, north and east of Medina Sidonia, around Arcos de la Frontera, Espera, etc., la Janda remains a favoured haunt (esp. in autumn and winter). Here (and elsewhere) they particularly favour perching on irrigation machinery. Montagu's Harrier and Black Kite are common particularly on migration. Larks – mainly Crested & Calandra Larks but also in some areas Short-toed, can be abundant. Tawny Pipit is widespread but localised. Check areas with light sandy soil for Hoopoe and if wooded Red-necked Nightjar. Stone Curlew are fairly widespread (if hard to see) and a few areas still have Little Bustard. (Great Bustard, though, is now found no nearer than the rolling farmlands east of Seville). Rufous Bushchat are declining and very local, but can still be found on open rocky hillsides, along dry stream beds and old vineyards). Tamarisk choked streams can hold (Western) Olivaceous Warblers although searching the margins of lagunas is often a better bet Knowing their song is a vital aid to finding them. La Janda also hosts a wintering population of Common Crane, the odd Black Stork and a variety of raptors (including Bonelli's Eagle and the occasional Spanish Imperial Eagle). Naturally, almost any farmland in the area will have some or all of the commoner birds noted in the introduction.
Coastal sites & Seawatching
Tres Amigos Saltpans - Bahai de Cadiz Beach habitats throughout Europe are under pressure from tourism, but there remain sites in this area that harbour interesting birds throughout the year. Kentish Plovers remain in good numbers, an assortment of waders may also turn up and gulls (inc. local Audouin's and Slender-billed) often loaf around on the quieter stretches of beaches. The immediate hinterland can concentrate passerine migrants (and hence be good for rarities). Raptors may be seen, sometimes harried by gulls, struggling ashore or heading towards Africa according to the season. On a non-birding note, coastal areas, especially where there are tamarisks and white broom, are the best areas to look for the rare Mediterranean Chameleon (although this species is mainly nocturnal). Jardín Botánico Celestino Mutis in Rota (on Avda de la Diputación), which is on your right as you enter the town from the north, is said to be the best site for this charismatic animal in Spain. (The gardeners here are very proud of ‘their’ Chameleons and hence very helpful). If the conditions aren't quite right, 'seawatching' can be a pretty dull, but at least it's much warmer here than in the UK! With a good (i.e. onshore) winds Gannets, shearwaters (inc Cory's), terns, gulls (inc Audouin's) and skuas can all be observed (esp. in spring & autumn and particularly for the first few days of such winds). Lesser Crested Terns are scarce but regular visitors particularly in May and October. (Note to see them at Los Lances beach you need to get there before the ubiquitous kite surfers). Remember that the rising or setting sun can make conditions near impossible so plan your seawatching accordingly. A Cabo de Trafalgar
number of headlands are well sited for the observation of passing birds. In the right conditions in autumn Cap Trafalgar, for example, can have a constant stream of hirundines, larks and finches heading for Africa, but be warned bird trappers are very active in the dunes here and elsewhere. Note too, that many suitable areas are 'out of bounds' due to military activity although in some areas (e.g. Sierra de la Plata) these restrictions appear to be routinely ` ignored. One good option is to join a whale watching trip – particularly those searching for Orcas which venture further west into the Atlantic side of the straits. (Note – the Orca population in the Strait has been decimated in recent years, but a few still turn up for a week or two in late July/early August. Until 2011 Wilson’s Petrels were classed as extreme rarities here, but in July/August of that year up to 150 were seen on boat trips off Tarifa (and once again in much smaller numbers in 2012). Little (Macronesian) Shearwater are rarities here, but may also be more regular than records indicate. Several companies offer whale watching trips, but the pick of the bunch is probably Turmares (www.turmares.com) In addition, the ‘Centro de Interpretacion del Atun de Almadraba’ in Barbate (www.atunalmadraba.com) may run boat trips to explore the cultural/historical importance of tuna fishing here (this was the case in 2012, but I'm uncertain whether these jaunts have survived the economic crash). These are cheaper (€20) than trips out of Tarifa, but you probably won’t see cetaceans although you should get some seabirds.
View across the Strait To Africa
Migration and raptor passage One of the single most enthralling experiences that a birdwatcher can hope to enjoy is the sight of a steady, visible passage of migrating birds of prey (plus storks). For simple reasons of geography and the dynamics of flight, such movements tend to become concentrated at the coast (particularly near the narrow straits) and along mountain ridges (the latter point especially the case for larger birds). This means that the passage of birds in this area (particularly near Tarifa) is one of the great bird spectacles of Europe. Great flocks (or "kettles") of Black Kites, Honey Buzzards, Marsh & Montagu's Harrier, Booted & Short-toed Eagles, Griffon & Egyptian Vultures (plus Black & White Storks) wheeling against the brilliant Mediterranean sky remains breathtaking no matter how many times it is observed. Anywhere in an elevated position overlooking the straits can be good for watching raptors and storks, but there are a number of migration watchpoints dotted along the coast. This shouldn't wholly distract, however, from the less conspicuous or spectacular movement of smaller birds. Be aware, though, that local conditions and winds can mean that flocks of raptors seemingly intent on the crossing can slip back again making accurate counting difficult. As a general rule most active migration takes place from mid-morning to early afternoon (c10:00 – 13:00) and to a lesser degree in the late afternoon although plenty of raptors can be around at ‘quieter’ times.
Best sites : In westerlies - Punta Carneroin spring, Algorrabo in autumn; above Force 4 also try Gibraltar. In easterlies - Cazalla or Trafico; above Force 4 try Los Lances & Punta Paloma (Valdevaqueros) and in still stronger winds (Force 5/6) Bolonia. Wind direction not so crucial in autumn as it as in spring. Note: in Spring conditions for migration in can seem perfect in Spain, but if the mountains in Morocco are clothed in clouds then few birds will move until they are clear! Equally, in autumn poor conditions further north, can make seemingly perfect days along the Straits disappointing. Extended periods of good clear
weather can result in birds passing over too high to be readiy observed. A period of unfavourable weather in southern/central/northern Spain followed by better light/moderate winds can result in a large movement. Spring migration: Early February (earlier still for White Stork) to beginning of June. Autumn migration: main passage mid-July to mid-October (sharply tailing off to the end of the month). Ospreys, harriers, Sparrowhawks & falcons will push through in even the strongest winds. Storks, vultures and eagles will pause migration in stronger winds (more than Force 5). Few birds migrate in Force 7. Hence in stronger winds birds tend to congregate in the Alcornocales until winds drop – this is often the time to see large numbers passing south on the coast White Storks & Short-toed Eagles tend to cross via Cazalla & the western part of the straits. Honey Buzzards tend to pass over to the east (Algarrobo) The migration of raptors (and other broad-winged migrants) is systematically recorded by the ‘Migres’ organisation (www.fundacionmigres.com) which has published annual totals (in Spanish) on the internet. However, at the time of writing (October 2015) their website seems to have been inoperative for several months. Regular daily updates were made in 2014 on the Dutch site http://www.trektellen.nl/ which regularly had details of sightings at Cazalla and Algarrobo (usually posted within 24 hours). However, this wasn't continued into 2015, but it's still worth checking if only for the historical record. Hopefully, things should only get better with the development of a new interpretive centre near Trafico (although its opening has been delayed). The purpose built centre at Cazalla remains empty and whether birders are allowed up the track to watch here (a more pleasant place than the 'temporary' site on the opposite side of the road) continues to be disputed. Access to Algorrabo is poor and potentially dangerous so take great care turning here. In 2014 the mayor of Algeciras, who visited the site, promised to improve access .…… It is a great pity that the authorities don't seem to fully realise the potential of this world class migration point which, properly managed, could bring in much needed 'green tourism'.
Many raptors, plus Black & White Stork, can be seen migrating on favourable days in 'spring' and 'autumn'. Note that spring passage starts in February and continues to the end of May whilst autumn passage extends from August into October. However, unusual birds can be seen at any time of the year; in January 2007 a Rűppell's, two Black Vultures and a Lammergeier were reported in a large flock of Griffons near Tarifa, Cádiz. The occasional rare eagle, Long-legged Buzzard and Eleonora's Falcon also show up from time to time. A couple of important points to remember:• •
Peak migration - each species peaks at different periods (see below). Comfort – if you’re into serious raptor watching take a comfortable folding chair Drink – take plenty of water to drink. Wind direction - Broad winged migrants like raptors tend to drift with the wind so determining the best place from which to watch depends on whether the wind is from the east or west. So naturally after strong or prolonged westerlies birds drift towards Gibraltar (and beyond), in similar easterlies they drift towards Bolonia whilst in calm or light winds they congregate around Tarifa. A prolonged spell of unsuitable winds can delay movements making them all the more impressive when favourable conditions occur. Raptors also like a good clear view of across the straits before they move in numbers. Also note that counting can be difficult as some birds seem to head out towards Africa, only to drift back to Europe further along the coast.
Although overshadowed by raptor migration, the migration of passerines (plus swallows, etc) across the straits and along the coast can be impressive. In spring – a long season in southern Spain extending from February (or earlier) and into May – coastal bushes can be alive with Pied Flycatchers and all manner of warblers whilst groups of Bee-eater mellifluously announce their presence. In August small birds move south again with the scrub again harbouring many species many of which are rare or scarce in the UK (e.g. Wryneck) , Come October huge numbers of finches, larks, swallows, etc follow the coast giving opportunities for 'vis migging'.
Seabird Migration:Although some of the species expected on a seawatch in northern Europe – notably seaducks, divers and Guillemot – are absent, other familiar species like Gannet, Arctic & Great Skua, Razorbill, Puffin, Great , Arctic & Pomarine Skua (in order of frequency), most terns (except Arctic) and gulls are frequent on passage and in winter. Less familiar species such as Balearic, Yelkouan and Cory's Shearwater, Gullbilled and Caspian Tern, Auduoin's & Slender-billed Gull, can be seen whilst amongst the passing shearwaters, gulls and terns are unfamiliar species. Despite a dearth of records Wilson's Petrel seems to be a late summer visitor (esp around pods of Orca). Seawatches often produce other species (inc. birds of prey) and Spoonbill Good seawatching sites include NW 1 Chipiona .NW13 Cadiz, SW 4 Cabo Roche SW 5 Trafalgar, Punta Carnero SW 11. The first four sites are best in the morning to avoid looking into the setting sun.
Sea Mammals:Trips out of Tarifa regularly record seven species – including resident Long-finned Pilot Whale, Bottlenosed, Common and Striped Dolphins and Orcas (often best in late summer). Sperm Whale also turn up tin late spring and summer. Fin Whales also occur. n red tuna
Information Centres There is an information centre at Centro de Visitantes Huerta Grande off the Algeciras bound carriage way halfway between that city & Tarifa. It has a new & impressive educational display. Some of the staff speak excellent English, Although the ‘new’ centre at Cazalla remains empty, a new centre is being built nearby (Feb 2011). The Colectivo Ornitológico Cigüeña Negra (Cocn) has a small information centre (on the N 340/E 5 south of Torre de la Pena near Tarifa). The staff here are helpful, but often have only limited English. Note, however, that this building seems to be locked up and unmanned quite frequently of late; possibly indicative of Spain's economic problems). A little further north along the N-340 is an information centre for the area (Punto del Informacion del P.N. Del Estrecho), but take care as the turning for the centre is on a bend.
Fuente de Piedra - the most regular site in Spain for lesser Flamingo Further Afield There's little point leaving Cádiz province or the ‘border areas’ of adjacent provinces unless you're desperate to see those few Iberian specialities not to be found here. The 'Coto Donana', however, is an iconic site and well worth the visit even if most birds can be found closer to home. I have, however, added an Appendix with several sites in Seville Province that are within a couple of hours drive from the centre of Cadiz Province (this includes sites for species like Black-bellied Sandgrouse (difficult) and Great Bustard (regular) which no longer occur in the province or species which are easier to see in Seville (e.g. Roller & Rufous Bushchat). The main route to the Coto Donana is via Seville's ring road which can get badly clogged with traffic so an early start (i.e. before 7:00 AM) is essential. Using minor roads and cross the Guadalquivir to Coria del Rio can be slow and tedious (unless exploring Brazo del Este en route). However, a new motorway south of Seville (starting near the airport, crossing the A4/E5 near Dos Hermanas and eventually, crossing the Guadalquivir at Coria) should make a visit to the Coto more feasible when (if) it opens (due 2013, but delayed - 2015/16?). Black Vulture is surprisingly scarce in Cadiz province, but can be seen in Sierra de Aracena (an hour or more north of Seville). I have found Black Vultures particularly easy to see from the hill above Almonaster de la Real (which is worth a visit for its charming restored mosque). Venturing further west into Portugal increases chances of seeing bustards. All these species can be best found in southern Extremadura (Badahoz province). The best areas are at least 4 hours from Alcalá. Badajoz also has good populations of Roller, Black-bellied Sandgrouse & Great Bustard (for details see Garcia & Paterson) For Dupont's Lark, the nearest sites are east of Granada (i.e. over 3 hours drive), but these are not generally reckoned to be very easy places to find this extremely elusive species; NE Spain is far better. Similarly, Trumpeter Finch is best looked for well beyond Cádiz. Fuente de Piedra may, however, be worth a longer than average trek (c2¾ hours) since it often has Lesser Flamingos and is only 100km further down a good fast motorway from the sites given for the Seville farmlands.
Note that this is a constantly evolving record so some details are not yet finalised (and probably never will be!). It is also meant to be interactive so any additions, comments or observations would be most welcome (my email address is given at the end of this account). In the past Iâ€™ve wasted too much searching for specific birds at various sites only to discover later that the species no longer occurs there.
For convenience I have divided the province into three broad, somewhat arbitrary, regions – largely based on the lines of communication. The map above shows these areas and the sites covered in these notes - see also the introductory maps at the start of each section. (For sites in Seville/Malaga/Gibraltar - see Appendix 1).
Star System (*** ** & *) These notes are now so long, detailed and verbose that those new to the area might struggle to sort the ‘wheat from the chaff’ and confuse minor sites with ‘the real deal’. Based entirely on my own prejudices and with an element of guesswork, I have arbitrarily categorised sites (inc. sub-sites) using a simple three star system:
*** = Omit at your peril - a major, usually well known, site with a good variety of species and a proven track record for producing those ‘key’ species that visitors want to see.
** = Worth a detour and not somewhere to miss if you're passing - a good site with a variety of species and/or the possibility of producing ‘key’ species that visitors want to see. * = Check if you've time when you’re passing - generally little known or with fewer ‘must see’ species; somewhere to visit if you want to make your own discoveries! Also includes some ‘family/partner friendly’ sites where you can do some birding on the sly! Note – properly exploring all *** sites would probably take over a week and all ***/** sites a month or more, but I hope it helps! Remember too that your priorities and prejudices may not be the same as mine ……
Senderos (Footpaths) Many birders, myself included, spend far too little time walking and too much time sitting behind the wheel. Hence I’ve tried to suggest a variety of walking routes that should produce an interesting selection of birds. There are, of course, far more footpaths than I’ve been able to mention, but these can be seen on “Wikiloc” (in GoogleEarth click on ‘Gallery’ -‘wikiloc’ is one of the options) or in a useful online booklet on the footpaths in Cadiz http://issuu.com/cadizturismo/docs/300senderoscadiz . . Some paths in the Alcornocales and, even more so, in Grazalema are steep and rugged, but many cover flat ground and are easily walked. Most footpaths tend to be linear so if walking far you will need to get back to your starting point. Access to two cars is ideal, but if not check bus routes (where possible catch the bus to your starting point to avoid the worry of missing that vital connection) and the availability of taxis. Two major problems that face the walker in Spain which rarely troubles them in the UK; the heat and bulls. The intense sun and heat can make longer walks difficult or even dangerous unless sensible precautions are taken (water, headgear, etc). In Spain the bulls aren't the docile animals found in the UK, but fighting bulls (“torros bravos”) which are very aggressive and dangerous. They should be kept behind a double fence and the fields well posted with warnings – but the Spanish aren’t always good at following rules.
é- Disabled Access I have also tried to indicate how ‘wheelchair’ friendly each site is, but would appreciate any input from people with mobility problems who will be more aware of difficulties and positives of any site than I am myself. For many sites (e.g Bonanza) it may actually be advantageous to stay in the car and use it as a hide.
Note on the maps in this guide. Most maps have remained unchanged from recent editions having extensively redrafted them several years ago, but some minor changes and amendments have been made (esp. in June 2014). Remember that I am not an expert cartographer so don’t expect Ordinance Survey accuracy (or consistency!). I think, though, that the colour scheme/symbols are reasonably intuitive. Woodlands are represented by stippled green with lighter woodland/scrub/olives groves being shown in a paler shade of green (but the result is as much impressionistic as accurate!). Permanent (or nearly so) lagunas have a darker blue border, but seasonally flooded areas are shown in blue without a clear border. Salinas are (usually) pale blue with darker blue dashes. Representing mudflats, saltmarsh and derelict salinas was difficult as they are not always very distinct. These I have shown in a khaki
(stippled on larger scale maps). Rocky areas (esp. in Grazalema) are pale grey. Unfortunately, adding relief proved far to complex for my limited skills. With few exceptions the maps follow the usual convention of having north at the top (a basic compass ‘rose’ indicates where this rule has been ignored). A rough scale is provided, but note that many roads in the mountains are so serpentine that the full extent of their corkscrewing cannot be shown on the map and distances ‘on the road’ will be further than they might appear. ‘Motorways’ are light purple-blue, main trunk roads are red and other roads are orange. Smaller roads are indicated by narrower orange lines and for rough tracks the line is dotted.
1 - NORTH-WEST CADIZ PROVINCE Introduction - This area is roughly defined by the Atlantic to the west, the Chiclana-Medina Sidonia road to the south and, broadly, a line running NE from Medina Sidonia (to Arcos de la Frontera and Villa Martin) to the east. Essentially this area encompasses the lower reaches of the Guadalquivir, the lagunas of the Cadiz hinterland and much of the area’s farmland (although the vineyards – esp. near Jerez – are often a poor habitat for birds and a number of farmland species are scarce here). Most of the important wetland sites – saline coastal wetlands and fresh water lagoons - in the province are found here. Several sites hold key species such as Crested Coot, Purple Gallinule, Marbled &, White-headed Ducks & Olivaceous Warblers. Some lagunas may dry out in summer (esp. after
dry winters). The lowland is lightly wooded (often with pines) which, although comparatively less interesting, can hold good birds (e.g. Azure-winged Magpie in Pinar de Algaida). The Spanish atlas shows Rufous Bushchat along the border with Seville here, but I know of no sites in the vicinity – perhaps you can find them! One or two sites offer good seawatching (in the mornings). The mouth of the Guadalquivir is also the best site in Spain for Little Swift (see Rare Birds in Spain website www.rarebirdspain.net/home.htm).
NW 1 - ** Chipiona Area – Chipiona, La Jara, etc Why visit? – seawatching, waders & a good chance of Little Swift and, in Rota, Chameleon é- good access at Chipiona; viewing possible from venta at La Jara but soft sand on beach Chipiona is a popular seaside resort with much of Seville apparently decamping there in the summer months when it is best avoided. Off season it much quieter. It has some of the best seafood restaurants in Spain, but the attraction for birders is that it has a good track record for turning up Little Swift and the odd rarity. As you leave the fast dualled section of the A480 from Sanlucar it is often worth detouring to the coast at La Jara (a - via Camino de la Reyetta second exit off the first roundabout). At high tide there’s often a small wader roost along the coast here towards Montijo; this may have godwit, Curlew, Whimbrel, Oystercatcher, Sanderling, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover etc plus various gulls (Audouin’s, Mediterranean & Slender-billed). During passage be sure to check the terns for Caspian and, much less often, Lesser-crested amongst the more usual Sandwich, Little and Commons. A venta on the beach at La Jara can be an excellent place to watch the waders as the tides rise or passing gulls/terns at high tide. Monjito/Punta del Perro (b) is not as good as Chipiona for seawatching, but it’s less public and you can still see passing terns and, in season, skuas here. As noted above, this area has a good track record for turning up Lesser Crested Tern (e.g. 4 birds in July 2012) and may well be as good as Playa de los Lances ( SW 9.2) which is often cited as the premier site for this species (largely because, I suspect, it's more frequently visited due to its proximity to raptor watching sites near Tarifa). Heading into Chipiona along the A480 (which has more than its fair share of roundabouts!) turn into the town following signs for the town centre. After c400m to turn sharp right to the harbour (signposted ‘Puerto’) which you reach after c300m. Turn left and park by the harbour. It’s a about 1km to the lighthouse (it’s the tallest in Spain so you can’t miss it), but the walk is well worth it as en route you can check the beach for gulls, terns, etc. (c). The pools here, formed by low stone walling, are an ancient fish trap and can be good for for waders (several rarities, inc. a Greater Yellowlegs in 2009, have turned up in this area). Don’t forget to check the small harbour for unusual gulls. Keep scanning for swifts as small flocks Little Swift are regularly reported from the ‘mouth of the Guadalquivir/Chipiona beach’. I find mornings (up to c10:00 best, but they can be seen here at any time (inc. winter as they are resident although less frequent). I have seen up to 16 birds here, but 21 were seen in May 2011. In the morning when the light is good, the point by the lighthouse is a good, if somewhat public, place to watch seabirds (skuas, Gannets, Cory's Shearwater etc.). Lesser Kestrels also breed. Chipiona has a deservedly high reputation for good food – esp. seafood; the small venta in the harbour has very fresh & well priced sea food and excellent coffee. If in this area consider continuing south along the coast from Chipiona into Rota for Chameleon. Head for Jardin de Botanico de Celestino Mutis (see below) . Although the pine clad dunes you pass also have Chameleon, this tiny park (open 10:00 AM) is probably the easiest place to see this species in Spain. The garden’s staff speak no English, but are extremely proud of ‘their’ Chameleons and very helpful if you can’t locate them. Chameleons emerge in late April if the conditions are warm and sunny (mornings are best). Note, however, in the breeding season it may be closed. Access: For Chipiona just follow the A480 west from Sanlucar following signs for Chipiona. Although you can get closer to the lighthouse by, its generally easier to park near the harbour and walk. This allows you to check the small harbour and prom for gulls etc (and the skies for swifts). Be warned that if you drive into ‘old’ Chipiona
you’;; find a maze of one-way streets and pedestrianised areas! (NB – the link road to the port from the roundabout (shown on Google maps & several atlases) doesn’t actually exist)! For La Jara - arriving on the A480 (as per Chipiona) take the second right (Camino de la Reyerta) off the first roundabout on this road. La Jara is at the end of this road (c2km – minor roads take you to other access points, but it’s easier to walk along the beach. ). For Rota Instead of going into Chipiona, head south along the A491 for c9km until you reach a turning for Rota (A2076). Take this for a little under 6km and park on the left in Ave. de los Toreros opposite the Jardin de Botanico de Celestino Mutis.
NW2 – *** Sanlucar de Barrameda-Bonanza-Trebujena Area
é- Many sites here can be viewed from tracks and roads making this a good site for those with poor mobility. This area contains several overlapping and closely related “sub-sites” (see map) all of which can be visited in a single day. They can pay revisiting since the state of the tide or migration can make a difference to what’s seen. Although lacking the reputation of the Coto Donana (across the Guadalquivir), many of the species for which that site is famous can be found as easily here (or nearby). Only Azure-winged Magpie bucks the trend by being confoundedly elusive in the Pinar de Monte Algaida – the only site for this iconic bird in the province. Treatment has been divided into six sub-sites for convenience although in reality one runs into another. For simplicity an approach from the south is assumed, but it can equally well approached from Trebujena – use the maps to adjust details accordingly. The Sanlucar area is also said, by one reference, to be a stronghold for Rufous Bushchat – but they elude me and, it seems, all other observers here (including one Jerez birder with family in the area!)
NB – Although Sanlucar has a notorious one-way system navigating through on the CA 624 to Bonanza isn't usually too bad with care (follow signs & look out for the football stadium which you pass en route), but it can be very tricky if unused to driving in Spain and is also somewhat congested at times. However, if heading for NW 2.4 & NW 2.5, it's easier and quicker to take the CA 9027 to avoid both Bonanza and much of Algaida; if you're happy to take a good gravel track (c2km) it's just as good a route to Bonanza Pools (NW2.2) and salinas (NW2.3).
NW2.1 – * Sanlucar Promenade & Guadalquivir ferries Why visit? – terns & gulls (inc. Audouin’s) plus ferry across (and up) the Guadalquivir plus ice creams & sea food! é- excellent viewing from promenade; check access on boat trip at museum Although, not a ‘fully fledged’ birding site, Sanlucar promenade can none the less produce some good birds and may be a good compromise with partners or families (esp. the ferry up the river). Driving into the town can be a nightmare thanks to the notorious one-way system. Heading towards the northern end (i.e. towards Bonanza) avoids this. Here a touristy boat trip (embarking near the yacht club) takes you on a trip a few km up the river landing on the Coto side and at a good site beyond Bonanza saltpans [see also NW2.3 (g)]. In the process you can get good views of the birdlife of the river – terns, waders and, overheard raptors. Also a ferry runs across the river to the long beach that delimits the Coto Donana to the south (both ferry routes are shown on Map 4 as a red dotted line). The heavily wooded dunes across the river should hold Azure-winged Magpie, but I’ve not explored this option. Lesser Kestrels, Pallid & Common Swifts are present over the town and Little Swift is an outside possibility. With luck, the foreshore may hold Audouin's and Slender-billed Gulls and Caspian Tern. If you’re ‘into’ seafood, the restaurants along the beach beyond the yacht club are considered amongst the best in Spain. Access: Follow signs for Sanlucar de Barrameda. Driving into the town can be a nightmare thanks to the notorious oneway system and in summer parking can be difficult. Heading towards Bonanza at the northern end and then towards the river just south of the football stadium
NW 2.2 - *** Bonanza Pools Why visit? – good views of White-headed Duck, Purple Gallinule, Little Bittern, Collared Pratincole, etc; chance of Crested Coot, Marbled Teal & Ferruginous Duck é- Pools easily viewed from the road
This small, obscure and tricky to find site punches well above its weight and is well worth a visit. If coming from Sanlucar bear right as you reach the outskirts of Bonanza to get on Camino Colorado or continue on the CA 624 and turn right onto the Camino Troncosa (opposite a bus stop). Alternatively, as described here, approach on the CA 9027 and make the final approach along a good gravel track (avoiding Sanlucar/Bonanza in the process). Arriving along the CA 9027 allows you the opportunity of birding sooner than if you come through the suburbs of Sanlucar; look out for raptors, Red-rumped Swallow, etc. Two uninspiring embanked plastic lined agricultural reservoirs, on the left c3.5 km from the A471 (marked by two small ‘silos’) can be worth a quick look (a) [a rough track here allows you to safely pull off the road]. Despite their unpromising appearance the ponds may hold White-headed Duck and attract marsh terns, Gull-billed Tern and Little Gull (100+ during passage) or even, if dry, waders. Little Swift has been seen here in early spring. There’s sometimes a large Collared Pratincole colony on the field by the ponds which is worth a stop as, if present, the birds often show extremely well (esp. for photography). The ditch here has Great-reed Warbler and sometimes Little Bittern. Continuing along the CA 9027 you have an intensively farmed (and near birdless) area to the left, but more bird friendly grazing marshes to the right. The latter area, which can be explored via rough tracks (b), holds Short-toed & Calandra Larks, Tawny Pipit, Montagu’s Harrier, etc and where flooded, Glossy Ibis, waders, etc. (see NW2.6) Note that the large embanked reservoir here holds little holding even less than those at (a). The heavily farmed area has very little of interest, but the access tracks here are a good short-cut to 'Bonanza Pools' (see map). After several kilometres the CA 9027 lurches sharp left here (look out for stacked barrels marking the turning) to take you on to Algaida village where you can go left for the pools and the salinas (NW2.3) or right for the pines and marshes (NW2.4/2.5). Note – you can continue, with care, straight on along a rough track where the road turns right to reach the Guadalquivir. However, the main interest here are ‘Bonanza pools’ (sometimes referred to as 'Camino Colorado' pools) which, although small, offer excellent views of some quality birds; they frequently 'out perform' better known & celebrated sites like Laguna de Medina! Well worth the detour. These old sandpits (c) are between Bonanza and La Algaida in a heavily farmed area (south of Bonanza saltpans – NW2.3 ). They're located in a maze of tracks and easily missed. Arriving from the CA 9027 take the good track after (a) to a T-junction where you go right and then left (ignore earlier turning) which takes you to Camino Colorado and the pools (see map). Otherwise approach as described in the opening paragraph. These pools are best explored on foot, but take care and remember to look out for traffic which can be surprisingly heavy. Pull off on this road by the pines (for shade) on the Bonanza side of the smallest pool (i). This and the pool opposite (ii) are superb for Purple Gallinule, Red-crested Pochard and, particularly, White-headed Duck. The latter can be seen easier, and at closer range here, than at larger, better known sites in the area. Check Coots here very carefully as Crested Coot has been present in recent years. Ferruginous and Marbled Duck also occur. The larger pool (ii) is the most reliable site I know for seeing Little Bittern and other herons here may include Squacco, Night and Purple Herons. Remember to take care when birding from the causeway as it can get surprisingly busy (sometimes with heavy lorries). Check for aerial feeders like Redrumped Swallow and less often Little Swift which has been reported here a few times. Unfortunately, despite the presence of such rare species, this site is unprotected. The pines here hold Red-necked Nightjar so if here late in the day it might be worth waiting until dusk. Since the first two pools usually produce all the desired 'goodies' I rarely walk as far as the third pool (iii), but it's certainly worth checking. A smaller pool nearer Bonanza (iv) is usually dry, overgrown and often marred by dumped rubbish, but is mentioned here to avoid confusion. Access: See maps & notes above for access
NW 2.3 - *** Bonanza Saltpans Why visit? – waders (inc. rarities), terns (inc. Caspian), BoPs (chance of SIE) & larks (inc. Lesser Short-toed). é - tracks at Bonanza permit excellent car bound observation; track along river has poor sandy sections The large saltpans at Bonanza (north of Sanlucar) are now open to birdwatchers and you do not require special permission to enter as previously. A large “Parque Natural” now stands at the entrance (a) This habitat is home to Flamingo, Slender-billed Gull (very easy to see in spring/summer) , numerous waders on passage, Caspian Terns, Whiskered Terns, wintering (and passage) Black Stork, etc. It is also one of the better areas to look for the somewhat localised Red Kite. This area, particularly as you look over towards the Coto can be excellent for Black Kite, Booted & Short-toed Eagles and, with luck, Spanish Imperial Eagle. Drive carefully along the track (b) that bisects the saltpans inspecting each one for waders. At the far end there’s a Tjunction (c). Vehicular access to the right (i.e. up to a small white pumping station) may be restricted. In spring 2009 a gate was erected across the road - evidently to stop ‘drinking parties’ of local youths gathering there rather than restricting access by birders. However, by spring 2010 all that remained was the mangled remains of the barrier and access was open again. The owners may yet put in a stronger barrier. This would be a pity since this area is often very the most productive being esp. good for waders. However, even if the barrier is replaced (although there was no sign of this by 2014) I gather that pedestrian access by birders would be tolerated. (see also NW2.4). A small pumping station (d) here often gushes out water. As a result both Little and Whiskered Tern can be seen fishing here at very close range. There are also paths here, often used by crab ‘fishermen’, which radiate out across the bird filled the salinas. By turning left at (c) you reach the river (e) which is often worth a look as birds commute back and forth here (inc. raptors gulls, terns and waders. Just prior to the riverbank a rough track (f) on the right is drivable, in good conditions, to the distant tamarisks about 1 km away. This allows good views across old saltpans which can hold many birds. The tamarisks here can be good for migrants. This area can be good for larks – both Lesser and ‘Greater’ Short-toed are present (all ‘crested’ larks should be examined carefully as Thekla has been reported here). Check small warblers in this area for Spectacled – generally fairly common and easy to see in the spring/summer. Look out for greyish hybrid Little x Reef Egret here (and elsewhere). Birds are reported on an almost annual basis on the marismas where they are roughly twice as common as apparently 'pure' Reef Egrets. A further 3km beyond this (or c4km from the start of the track if you prefer to walk to the tamarisks) there’s an excellent ‘observatorio’ (watchpoint) at (g) which overlooks some good ‘wader pools’ which can be good when other areas are dry. If you’re confident and careful you can reach this area by car and even continue on towards Trebujena (see NW2.4 & 2.5) – I’ve done it in a hire car, but it really should only be tackled, if at all, in a 4x4 . (Note - The touristy boat trip – see NW2.1 - briefly stops here). If you take the route along the river look out for Spanish Imperial Eagles over the Coto. Alternatively you can try viewing the other side of these saltpans by exploring the roads which turn off towards these saltpans from village of Algaida. These are all conveniently, if boringly, named after letters of the alphabet. The one nearest the woodland (Calle Algaida ‘N’) gives good views over both Laguna Tarelo (h – see also NW 2.4) and, more distantly, the saltpans. Calles ‘G’, ‘H’, ‘L’, ‘J’ & ‘K’ also run down to the saltpans and allow some views of the area, but are probably not usually worth exploring. Access: See under access for NW2.5
NW2.4 - *** Laguna de Tarelo & Pinar de Monte Algaida Why visit? – Laguna - White-headed Duck (scarce in recent years), breeding egrets & herons (esp. Night & Squacco Heron plus Spoonbill); Pines – Azure-winged Magpie (elusive), breeding Black Kites & Booted Eagle etc; Tree Sparrow for the trio! é- good access by car (and bus) to pines; good path to Laguna Tarelo (inadequate viewing sceen); path (b) unsuitable for wheelchairs; track through woods; good level cycle path follows the track through the woods. Laguna de Tarelo (a) - as you enter Algaida pine wood this small lake is through the pines on the left (this is also the furthest point accessible by the bus from Sanlucar). The tree clad island here holds all expected tree nesting herons (- including Squacco Heron which can be elusive) plus Spoonbill. The laguna’s margins hold Purple Gallinule and the reedbed has Penduline Tit (winter/passage) and Waxbills. On the water there are usually Blacknecked Grebe and Red-crested Pochards whilst there’s also a chance of Marbled Teal (although other nearby sites are usually better). This is also a ‘classic’ site for White-headed Duck, but worryingly numbers (in summer) have plummeted in recent years and on some visits they may not be present (although 12+ present in May 2012). By late summer I have sometimes found this pool to pinkish-brown coloured and foul smelling and almost entirely birdless. Bonanza pools (NW2.3) nearby is a better bet for this species since, although they can hold fewer birds, these can be seen at very close range. In very early spring (late February!) this can be a good area for the first Pallid Swifts of the season. Little Swift has also been reported here. There’s a pleasant circular walk from the laguna (b) through the trees, but, although you may well find several species of lizard or even snakes, you will need a lot of luck to get Azure-winged Magpie the main target here. As noted under NW 2.5, the back of the laguna can also be observed by taking the last turning on your left as you approach the woodlands (Calle Algaida N), but take care not to disturb nesting/roosting egrets here. You also get views over the back of the saltpans from this track. Pinar de Monte Algaida - as noted earlier this woodland is the site for Azure-winged Magpie (and its only haunt in Cadiz province). However, this species can be very elusive here and some people fail to see them on numerous visits. Autumn/winter seem better than the summer. Try the areas around the picnic site (c) – the first turning off the track to the right. (If this is a mustsee species you’d do better to drive round - via Seville - to the Coto Donana). This ‘picnic area’ track can also be good for Hoopoe. Continue down this track to overlook farmland (d) – often good in early spring for swifts and herons. The woods hold 100+ pairs of Black Kite (esp. around e) and rather fewer Booted Eagle all of which noisily make their presence felt. The woods also have Melodious Warbler, Short-toed Treecreeper and Tree Sparrow (a scarce species in SW Spain). Red-necked Nightjars occur in the summer. By walking west you can get good, if distant views over Los Portugueses Salt Pans. At the northern end of the woods the road takes you (g) to the nearby Los Portugueses Salt Pans/Guadalquivir marshes (NW2.5) if you turn left or, if you go right, along a poor track to the east of the wood and on to Martin Miguel’ pools (NW2.2). (Ignore the minor track on the left as you emerge from the woods as it is gated after a few hundred metres) …………
NB – in 2013 the track through the woods was repaired and easily drivable, but may quickly degrade after a couple of wet winters. An alternative route to W 2.5. is to take the track to the east of the woods (see 'c' on Map 5). Access: See under access for NW2.5
NW2.5 - *** Los Portugueses Salt Pans/Guadalquiver Marshes Why visit? – Five species of lark (Crested, Thekla, Calandra & both ‘short-toed’) Spectacled Warbler, raptors (SIE possible), herons, waders, Marbled Duck, wintering Bluethroat; possible Pin-tailed Sandgrouse é- good viewing along tracks, but path to e often difficult
Essentially a continuation of the drive through Pinar de Monte Algaida (NW2.4) and a 4x4/walking link to Bonanza saltpans (NW2.3). Once again the following assumes that you are arriving from the direction of Sanlucar (for directions see NW 2.4) although it is equally possible to arrive via Trebujena. Exit from Algaida pines onto raised track (a). To the right this degenerates into a potholed track linking to ‘Martin Miguel’ pools etc (see map), but, after an indifferent start, to the left the road soon improves to what is now a good tarmac road (b-h). Take care as some motorists speed along this section. This road allows good views over the marshes -. Short-toed Eagle often perch on the pylons here so have your camera ready. All the usual BoPs can be seen (inc. Red Kite). Cranes can sometimes be seen on the marshes and a rarity isn’t impossible – I’ve had Rose-coloured Starling here. Just before a sluice gate (b) turn onto a rough track which takes along the Guadalquivir and gives good views of Los Portugueses salt pans (salinas). Drive slowly along this track (c) as good birds can be seen anywhere along here. (Ignore the basic disintegrating ‘screen’ when you reach the river – it’s probably better to use your car as a hide). To the south are poor saline marshes which reputedly have Pin-tailed Sandgrouse whilst along the river there are a series of small ‘wader’ pools. This track often has obliging Greater & Lesser Short-toed Larks – again keep your camera ready! Spectacled Warbler can show well too. Park where the gravel runs out and the salinas begin (d) to scan the area; I’ve had Lanner here. From here you can walk (or take a 4x4) 4km to the good pools noted in NW 2.3 (g). After c1km taller vegetation on the right holds very obliging Spectacled Warblers. Both Crested and Calandra Lark (in addition to both of the short-toed variety) may also be encountered. Check all Crested Lark as Thekla has also been reported in the area. Black Kites and Booted Eagles will be constantly in view during passage and the summer, but also look out for Spanish Imperial Eagles over the Coto. Bonanza salt pans are c8km – a long walk there and back on a hot day! Return along the track to the sluice (b) to follow the road towards Trebujena.
The first pool (Codo de la Esparraguera) on the left (f) just after the sluice often holds good numbers of Red-crested Pochard and is probably one of the best places in Spain to catch up with Marbled Teal (although not so when the pools are too dry when it can be good for waders). Despite having much of the vegetation dug out and a ditch excavated here in September 2012, the species were still present in 2013/2014. This species may also be seen around the isolated reeds next to the road in the second pool. In recent years (2015) Crested Coot has also been seen here so check Coots carefully The dry marshes to the right (south) here may also conceal Pin-tailed Sandgrouse. In spring the pools can be excellent for Spoonbills and always has at least a few Flamingo (which present often a good opportunity for photography). A track on the left at the far end of this pool allows a good view over the salinas (and Marbled Teal are sometimes in the ditch here). The saline scrub here also attracts Spectacled Warbler and, in late autumn/winter/spring, check the wet ditches for Bluethroat (g). Keep an eye on the ‘river traffic’ too as Gull-billed Terns (and much else) can be seen here (h). Finally the metalled road it swings sharp right towards Trebujena, but the track continues further along the river. This track follows the river almost all the way to Brazo del Este and Seville beyond. The first kilometre or so is in fairly good condition, but after c2 km it degenerates into a very badly potholed track only drivable – and then with extreme care – when dry. After c3km you reach a pair of obvious white buildings (marking an agricultural canal) after which the road is in a reasonable condition (see SV1 – Lebrija area). Where the road swings away from the river there are some old salinas and beyond them sparsely vegetated fields (i). The salinas hold the usual variety of birds (and seemingly particularly attractive to Great White Egret) whilst the fields often have Collared Pratincole. Continuing along the good tarmac road towards Trebujena after c1km you reach a track on the right (just before Cortijo de Alventus) which heads into the marshes for c3 km. This track (j) again affords good views over the marshes. After c2km you reach an area that, when wet (in spring only), can be alive with birds – Gull-billed & Whiskered Tern, Squacco & Night Heron plus many waders. See also under NW2.6.
Access for all sites: Via Algaida village My preferred route along the A 471 towards Trebujena, then along ninor roads to La Algaida avoids congestion in Sanlucar and allows you reach birding sites more quickly! Head north from Jerez on the new A480 for Sanlucar, turning right onto the A 471 towards Trebujena. After 2.5 km turn off left onto a well signposted road (Av de Trebujena) back towards Sanlucar, but almost immediately swing right along a good newly tarmac’d local road. After 5.3 km this lightly used road swings sharp left into Algaida village i) Martin Miguel pools – c3.5km along the newly tarmac’d road off the Av. de Trebujena as noted above. ii) Bonanza saltpans – continue along the minor road and turn sharp right where the tarmac runs out (c7km). Continue into Algaida village, where after c2km, you turn left. Continue south, the road swings sharply to the right turning sharp right and then to the left. At the second bend (c3km from the crossroads) you turn right onto the access track for the saltpans (marked by a large Natural Park sign).. iii) Bonanza pools - Take a minor road (Camino Troncosa) on the left about 1km south of the turning for the saltpans. (it is just before you reach a large white industrial building on your right). The first pool comes in view after c500m – continue and take the first right to view the second pool. Arriving from Sanlucar continue along the CA 624 until you reach the far end of the village (near the lighthouse) where, instead of turning left & then right for La Algaida, turn right along Ctra del Faro, then fork left along Camino Colorado. The pools are a few km along this road. (See map for route from Martin Miguel Pools) iv) Laguna de Tarelo & Pinar de Monte Algaida follow the route for Bonanza sites, but at the crossroads turn right (north) to the woods v) Los Portugueses Salt Pans/Guadalquiver Marshes - continue though the woods and turn left along a raised track towards the river where you go left for Los Portugueses or right to follow the river towards Trebujena
Via Sanlucar – This is the ‘standard route’ to Bonanza and beyond, but is often congested. Enter Sanlucar on the main road going right towards Bonanza (and passing the football stadium in the process). Then adapt maps/directions to locate sites described above
Via Trebujena – Trebujena is a confusing maze of narrow one-way streets. To avoid these, take the Ctra de Sanlucar which heads north into the town c850m east of the A471/A2000 Jerez road junction. Go straight on (give or take a curve or two) for c2.3km until you turn right into Ronda de Palomare. This road, with a name change or two en route, reaches the river about 7.8km from the A471.
NW2.6 - ** Marismas de Chapatal / Trebujena Marshes Why visit? – Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, waders (when wet), Glossy Ibis, raptors é- tracks accessible with care – good viewing from a car. This is north of the A471 Sanlucar-Trebujena road (and can be viewed distantly from Algaida area and the road to Trebujena along the Guadalquivir). It is a mix of poor quality pasture, salt marsh and episodically flooded areas. It can be accessed off the A471 by several tracks (a, b & c on map) which allow a circuit round the area (take care the track can be badly rutted). The key bird here is Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, but it can be very elusive being best looked for in early spring (Feb-March). Knowing the call is very useful. Locations (d) and (f) are said to be good for this species. However, there are few places where you can safely pull over on what can be a very busy road to overlook (d); the ‘Calle del Algarve’ track (mentioned below) may be a viable alternative route into this area. On passage and in summer look out for raptors such as Montagu’s Harrier, Short-Toed Eagle, Red and Black Kites, etc. with Hen Harriers & Merlin in winter. The wetter areas (see h, g & e on the map) attract various waders (inc. wintering Wood Sandpiper and Little Stint) plus large flocks of Glossy Ibis. Black Stork is often be present in winter. The rough pasture land between (f) and (g) has numerous Shorttoed Lark and the odd Tawny Pipit in the breeding season. This is also an excellent area for early ‘Yellow’ Wagtails and wheatears. Collared Pratincole in the breeding season. Note – As noted under 2.5 several tracks in the area may warrant investigation. A track that heads west from Trebujena (starting, as the Calle del Algarve, near the northern end of Parque de la Toya) into the marshes for c5km kilometres may then link with the track near the Cortijo de Adventus. I’m not sure how good these tracks are or whether they are open to the public, but the habitat looks interesting and worth a closer look….... Access: All tracks turn north off the A471 Sanlucar-Trebujena road. Exit a is c6km east of the A480 main SanlucarJerez road (and 120m east of the CA 3101). Exit b is c2.5km and exit c is c9km east of the CA3101 (From the A2000 exit c is 4.5km, b 11.5km and a c14km to the west on the A471)
NW3 - ** Mesa de Asta Marsh Why visit? – Active Gull-billed Tern colony, Collared Pratincole Montagu’s Harrier & waders é - viewing from track off A2000; path may be negotiable by wheelchair by the determined. Although not in any well known site guide, this marsh features in a recently published leaflet on ‘‘nature routes’ produced by the Jerez tourist board – http://www.turismojerez.com/index.php? id=2253&L=1). Note, however, that by late summer the marsh can be bone dry and birdless. The current village of Mesas de Asta largely dates from the 1940s, but this is the ancient Tartessian and Roman site of Asta Regia which has been linked with the legend of Atlantis! The marsh – Haza de la Torre - can be excellent with good numbers of Collared Pratincoles and Gull-billed Terns here in season. The proximity of the site is often signalled by substantial flocks (<700) of Gull-billed Terns hawking over the cereal fields presenting a somewhat unexpected spectacle (a) as you approach on the A 2000 from the north. In the valley below shallow, but distant and inaccessible floods and settling ponds (b) often hold large numbers of waders and Flamingos. You can pull off onto a track (c) east of the main road (as it bypasses Mesa de Asta), but the route up to the distant settling pools and salt lake (b) is blocked by a chained and padlocked gate. This may change as the marsh and the old settling pools (once used for the sugar beet industry) are owned by Ebro Foods who, according to a document on the internet, intend to develop the potential of the marsh as part of the company’s commitment to the environment …. From (c) you can get views over the marsh but although Gull-billed Tern and Pratincoles can pass at close range, a ‘scope is needed to scan the marshes (d) from here. None the less it’s a good spot to stop for Montagu’s Harrier, Lesser Kestrel, Red-rumped Swallow, etc. Fortunately, by following the track south for a few hundred metres (towards a line of small pylons) you reach a second less substantial second track (e) which you can follow on foot across the fields to the edge of the marsh. To access this you need to negotiate a rather deep ford and the track itself is very poor so it's easier to tackle the area on foot (the ford is easily bypassed) rather than by car. Views of Gull-billed Tern from this path (e) can be stunning. This route allows access to the southern rim of the marsh. How far access along this track is permissible I am unsure, but I have walked to (f) without problems (and others have driven it to this point). As already noted this site can hold Montagu’s Harrier, Flamingo, and many waders (eg Avocet, Black-winged Stilts etc.) according to season. It is often a good spot to pick up odd species like Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit, etc if you’ve missed them elsewhere plus a range of passage waders (e.g. Green & Wood Sandpipers, Little Ringed Plover, etc). In addition the marshes often attract Whiskered and Black Terns, Slender-billed and sometimes Little Gull. If the ford isn't too deep then by following the track besides the A2000 further south you reach fields which are sometimes flooded and large tracts of which are covered by thin halophytic vegetation.
(NB – take care where you park on this track as surprisingly large agricultural lorries regularly use it). I have seen Stone Curlew here and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse may be a possibility. An old drovers’ road Canada Real Ancha (g) which runs from Mesas de Asta to the CA 3103 looks worth exploring. (The CA 3103 continues to Casablanca NW4 -see below). Access: Take the road between Jerez –Trebujena (A200). Pull off onto a dirt track just east of the main road (c9.5 miles north of the A4 near Jerez or 8km south of the A471 from Trebujena) just beyond turnings to Mesa de Asta. This gives distant views across field to the marsh. Alternatively explore tracks as noted above.
NW4 - * Marismas de Casablanca Why visit? – Outside chance of some good birds – possibly Pin-tailed Sandgrouse - but mainly to explore a little known area. é - track down to marsh accessible by car – access beyond limited This site, straddling the Cadiz-Seville border is added for it’s potential rather than a known track record. When flooded it can attract huge numbers of waders and ducks. Exit westwards from the NIV (signposted for Morabita) just south of two large and very obvious buildings (grain elevators?) next to the railway line. Immediately after turning off the main road turn right to loop round behind the buildings and onto a gravel track running along beside the railway. (Note – I am not certain about access here, but have never had any problems and it is regularly used by farmworkers & other locals foraging for samphire). The bridge over the new railway gives you excellent views across a shallow depression (a) which, when flooded is then alive with thousands of Flamingos and waders (inc. Collared Pratincole in summer) , but when dry should be good for Pin-tailed Sandgrouse (whose presence here is confirmed by the Spanish atlas and my one fleeting sighting from a train). Continue along the track to view more good habitat. Hen Harrier and Short-eared Owl present in winter. Returning to the CA 3103 head westwards stopping where possible to obtain distant views across the open area to the north. After c4km the metalled road swings sharply southwards (c13.5km from the junction with the A4 if arriving from Jerez). However, take the good gravel track (designated the CA0606!) road that turns to your right (or straight on if arriving from Jerez on the CA 3103). This decent track takes you c3km northwards and down to a shallow depression (c) from which various well corrugated tracks radiate (one of which roughly follows the Cadiz/Seville border shown on map). A small lagoon to the east often attracts waterbirds but views are distant (unless you explore on foot). With no signs banning access, it seems you can explore the surrounding habitats (dry saline marshes or shallow lagoons depending on recent rainfall) on foot. Pratincole, Flamingo, waders, terns, etc. are present, but the main draw here is the chance of seeing Pin-tailed Sandgrouse. Return to the sharp bend and continue towards Jerez along the CA 3103 (d). This drive can be excellent for Montagu’s Harrier, Gull-billed Tern (from the nearby colony at Mesa de
Asta) and may still hold the odd Little Bustard (still present in the area according to the Spanish Atlas). Roughly 8km from the sharp bend a rough track heads off to the right and towards Mesas de Asta – this might be worth walking as the habitat looks interesting. Access: Access the CA 3103 off the N-IV north of Jerez (the junction is just south of where the main trainline passes under the road - marked by a huge white building). Service tracks run north from here for the construction of the new ‘AVE’ train line allowing access to interesting marshy areas. If approaching from Jerez take CA 3103 north from Jerez at junction 635 on the A4 (Autovia del Sur).
NW 5 - ** Laguna de los Tollos Why visit? – A site for the adventurously minded ….. thanks to an ambitious restoration project here this site is rapidly improving; Black-necked Grebe, Purple Gallinule, Whiteheaded Duck, Ferruginous Duck, etc & Black-winged Kite. é - viewing from track Although little known outside the country, this laguna was something of a cause celebre in Spain. In its prime it was the second largest laguna in the province and, until the opening of a large claypit in 1976, was a very important site for Ferruginous, White-headed and Marbled Duck. After years of protest this claypit was closed in 1998 and €8M has been set aside for restoration (from the Andalucian junta and the EU). The heavy winter rains in recent years have helped nature reaffirm itself here as, in 2011, it was wet and alive with birds. The claypits were sealed in 2014 making it easier to maintain water levels. Hence it is gradually regaining some of its former importance. Further landscaping and facilities are planned. Now a matter of local pride, the laguna is signposted off the N IV in the centre of El Cuervo. A local group of volunteers do much conservation and educational work here. Visiting the site is one small way in which birders can support their work. Those with reasonable Spanish (or using Google translate!) will learn a good deal more from looking at a webpage on this project http://www.lagunadelostollos.com/blog/) A good track runs along parallel to the motorway and next to an attractive 'Area Recreativa'. The laguna can be viewed, albeit distantly, from here, but a new path along the southern edge of the laguna leads to a recently constructed boardwalk which takes you to a hide ( a) giving excellent views. White-headed Duck and Purple Gallinule are now regularly present. Dabchick, Blacknecked Grebe, Red-crested Pochard, Pochard,Gadwall, Flamingo, Spoonbill & Blackwinged Stilt, Whiskered Tern, etc. are also found here. Coot are increasingly numerous and Crested Coot may yet return. The tamarisk necklace provides habitat for Olivaceous Warblers although they are hard to see. Continuing along the track past the Area Recreativa after c1.5km from the CA 5100 take the road on the left which allows further panoramic views of the laguna. As this dips down it takes you to a more open area near a small ford (b) can be good for Black-winged Stilt and passage waders (Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, etc). Much of the site has now been fenced which should reduce disturbance although it will also limit views. Beyond the ford a track (c) on the left takes you the laguna's northern shore – look for waders here (esp. Avocet). Reeds, mainly along the western edge hold Purple Heron and Little Bittern, but are rather distant and difficult to view. Further on there's now a smaller pool on the left (d) beyond some allotments. As time goes on this area should be developed and may be good for birds in the near future. Back on the CA 5100 go over the E5 and immediately turn left onto a dirt track (e).
Scan the fields to the east for Black-winged Kite. An extremely low and narrow tunnel under the E 5 here has nesting Redrumped Swallow. The road that passes this site (CA 5100) continues to Gilalbin and then on to Espera making it a good stopping point if heading towards that site from the Lebrija area. (NB – There seems to be a little confusion over the name of this laguna as it also appears to be referred to as Laguna de Tollon). Access – in the centre of El Cuervo turn into Calle de Fernando Cámara Gálvez and continue south for c1.5km (following signs for the laguna) until the lake comes in view to the left. Turn left along a good track running parallel to the motorway. After c1.5 km turn onto a road heading back into El Cuervo (and marking the Cadiz/Seville border) to view the northern edge of this lake.
NW 6 - ** Lagunas de Espera
Why visit? – Crested Coot & White-headed Duck; winter larks & raptors é - Laguna Hondilla viewing possible from track (but overgrown); path to Laguna Salida good but viewing poor, but the path to Laguna Dulce is poor & rough going.
This is lovely little site is a pleasant diversion on a trip to Arcos (well worth a detour in itself). Lagunas de Espera (the generic name for a collection of several small lakes) is a good site for White-headed Duck, Crested Coot , Purple Gallinule, Flamingo, etc. Note that in the lagunas may suffer from drought (as they did 2006 - 2008) when the first two lagunas may be virtually dry or much reduced in size. The first laguna – Hondilla - is now pretty much choked with willow scrub. However, following the wet winter of 2008/09, the two second lagunas were in excellent condition The track (a) to the reserve from Espera is degraded in places, but is fine if negotiated with care (although in May 2011 Laguna Hondilla flooded the track making further progress by car doubtful). As with any open area in this part of Spain the route can be excellent for birds of prey (which in winter may include Bonelli's Eagle and the odd wandering Spanish Imperial Eagle) and larks (inc. Calandra). A small white building on the left (b) marks the location of Laguna Hondilla – you can view this laguna from here, but it is now very overgrown (although it has previously held Crested Coot, Black-necked Grebe etc). It is also viewable from (c). Laguna Salida often hold good numbers of birds, but viewing from the white ‘hide’ (d - about 10 minutes walk from the track) is poor. Black-necked Grebe, Red-crested Pochard and Purple Gallinule are usually present here. White-headed Ducks, depending on water levels, are usually present on all three lakes.
Laguna Dulce, another 10 minutes walk along the track, is the best of the three for Crested Coot (also sometimes seen at Hondilla). There is a raised viewpoint to the right of the track, but due to a lack of maintenance is often overgrown and hard to find. Look for the Crested Coots to the left and the back of the lagoon. Th, but fewer present in 2014. Look out for Ferruginous and Marbled Duck which sometimes appear on passage. Flamingos are often present and Ospreys regular migrants. Black-winged Kite is also to be found in this area. Remember to check sparrow flocks for Spanish Sparrow. The castle in Espera also offers stupendous views over the countryside and, accordingly, is should be a good site for visible migration. Access: The Lagunas de Espera reserve are well signposted off the minor road from Espera to Las Cabezas de San Juan (Espera itself is due north of Arcos). The track skirts the steep hill on which the castle stands and then strikes right across the campo for several km with the small white building on the left, overlooking Hondilla, marks the start of the reserve. Park just beyond Hondilla, by a gated track running off to the left which you can follow on foot. This skirts the southern edge of the largest lake, Laguna Salada de Zorilla. Continue along the track and over the rise to Laguna Dulce (c10 mins. walk). Continue along the track (as you come from Espera) to exit on a minor road (CA 4102) and Lagunas de Cigarrera. (You can also come via Gibalbin or the NIV)
NOTE - Continue along the track from Espera to Lagunas de Cigarrera & Galiana - (see next site NW7) which are only a few km from this site and a convenient minor detour.
NW7 - ** Lagunas de Lebrija (inc. Laguna de Cigarrera, Seville) Why visit? – White-headed Duck, Crested Coot, Purple Gallinule,Olivaceous Warbler, Spanish Sparrow, etc.; check area for Black-winged Kite. é - all main lagunas viewable from road/track – better than Espera for access Although these lagunas are in Seville province, since they are only a few km along what is essentially a continuation of the track to Lagunas de Espera, it makes sense to deal with them here. Indeed as the track to these lagunas is shorter and in better condition, it’s often best to check here first if you want to avoid a longer bumpy drive along the ‘Espera track’. These lagunas - Lagunas de Lebrija-Las Cabezas complex - consists of six lagunas (Pilón, Taraje, Cigarrera, Peña, Galiana and Charroao). Laguna de Taraje (a) is the only laguna of the complex not to dry out in drought years, but is strictly private and without public access (NB - another laguna with the same name is to be found in the Lagunas de Puerto Real complex). All of the remaining lagunas may virtually disappear in drought years; the map shows both their ‘normal’ size (dark blue line) and when flooded after a wet spring/winter. Laguna del Charroao – near the junction with the N IV - now appears to have been reduced to a damp hollow – is one of many (Lagunas de Bartholome, de Arrecife and de Santa Ana are examples) that have been lost to excessive water abstraction for farming. Laguna del Pilon (b) is easily viewed off the CA 4102 just north of the turning for the Lagunas de Espera. Being conveniently located next to the road it is a useful indicator as to the state of the other lagunas; it can be bone dry but after wet winters (e.g. 2010 &
2011) it forms a medium sized shallow lagoon attracting Little Ringed Plover, Black-winged Stilt and sometimes White-headed Duck. Laguna Galiana (d) – the first one you reach along the track (see below) – can be little more than a small reedy pool, but in wet years can be worth examining. Laguna de Peña (e), in a depression to the north of Laguna Galiana, appears to be private and is accessed by a 'private' track (although the sign announcing this fact is rusted and near illegible so you may get away with it!). Laguna de Cigarrera (f) is more substantial and is the one worth the detour although it is rather screened by tamarisks. However, these tamarisk clogged margins have Olivaceous Warblers and, with luck, Spanish Sparrows. The lake also has White-headed Duck, Red-crested Pochard, Black-necked Grebe and Whiskered Tern. Both Squacco and Purple Heron are sometimes present. Crested Coot also occurs making this a viable alternative to Lagunas de Espera. (It is also more accessible with a better, shorter track and without the 20 minute walk to access the best laguna as at Espera). In wet years the flooded ‘tail’ of the laguna (g) can be good for waders. Black-winged Kite is present in the surrounding farmland. Access: The Lagunas de Lebrija-Las Cabezas are off the CA 4102 Gibalbin – Las Cabezas road. Come off the Arcos by pass at the junction signposted for Gibalbin. When you reach the Gibalbin turn right and after 7km a rough but drivable track crosses the road. Turning left takes you to lagunas Cigarrera, Peña & Galiana (c1.5 km) and right to Lagunas de Espera (c3km along a somewhat rougher track). Laguna de Pilon is the c1.5 km further along the CA 4102. If you continue along this road there’s an excellent venta at the junction with the N IV.
NW8 - ** Laguna de Medina Why visit? – Crested Coot & White-headed Duck, Penduline Tit, herons, warblers é - steps make viewpoint (b) inaccessible; viewpoint (a), boardwalk and hide all wheelchair friendly
A classic site, but one that have suffered a decline in recent years due to the presence of carp which have upset the ecological balance. If these are removed (which has been done following previous problems) then the site deserves ***. Details of Laguna de las Canteras added for the adventurous. The largest, and most easily accessible, of the lakes in this region Laguna de Medina is, confusingly, much nearer Jerez than Medina Sidonia. The laguna is a little south of Jerez and is now very well signposted off the A381. The great advantage of this site is that, unlike other lagunas, it rarely dries out, but this is also its Achilles heel as, by design or accident, it is periodically colonised by carp (esp. after flooding). Once established, these fish are expensive and difficult to get rid of precisely because the lake doesn't dry out. The fish disturb the ecological equilibrium causing a sharp decline in aquatic birdlife (esp. both Coots and White-headed Duck). Unfortunately, this is currently the case (2015) and the laguna is no longer a reliable site for Crested Coot and White-headed Ducks are low in
numbers. There’s a good viewpoint from the small hilltop (a) behind the white building, but you will need a ‘scope to get decent views of the waterbirds below. The path continues off to the left through low scrub and then, via steps, to a second viewpoint (b). This is also rather distant from the lake, but does give a good view of the lake. Note that this route is sometimes used by noisy school groups. This viewpoint gives somewhat closer view of the lake, but a ‘scope will still be needed. Carefully examine the birds to your right from the first viewpoint (a) as it has the reputation for being good for Crested Coot although it takes good luck, experience and a good 'scope to find them from here (but see note above). A path snakes along the southern border of the lake and two raised wooden walkways here have improved visibility and largely resolved the problem of the path being flooded in wet weather. (Note that this route is frequently used by mountain bikers so be careful not the block the path). Look out for Olivaceous Warblers in the tamarisks beside the first boardwalk (c). At the end of the second boardwalk (d) the reeds have often concealed Crested Coot in the past. Roughly c1 km from the car park, a path snakes its way off this track to a hide (f). The hide (originally ‘glazed’ by tinted windows!) is now much improved although approach with care as the over large windows mean birds can clearly see its occupants and often flee unless you’re careful. The trees that screened the view to the right have been removed giving a much improved view towards the far end of the lake. Limited views can also be gained further along the main track here. Despite the notice where the track loops round that it’s the end of the path (sendero), it can now be followed across a wooden causeway (g) which allows views across to some reeds and scrub (Savi’s Warbler is possible here). This is also a good area to hear Stone Curlew calling in spring (and with luck you may see them if they fly). The path (h) continues beyond the minor road ultimately to link with the Lagunas de Puerto Real (and beyond) – a popular cycling route. This area can also be accessed via a minor road ( i see below). There are plans to develop a path round the whole lake, but I have been told conflicting stories by different sources – it’s either near completion and awaiting the agreement of a single landowner or there’s no chance of it ever happening! (NB – the ‘path’ shown in Gosney is actually the boundary of the reserve). Although particularly well known as a site for Crested Coot, this species can be hard to locate even in good years amongst the more numerous Common Coot (several thousand of which used to winter). They can be elusive and hug cover and without a 'scope you will be lucky to find one. An estimate in 2010 suggested that there were 20-25 individual Crested Coots present at this site, but since 2012 they have been extremely difficult to find and may not be present at all at times). Common Coots have also declined. The presence of fish also seems to have reduced the number of wildfowl (inc. White-headed) and Black-necked Grebe . As the laguna rarely dries out only active management is likely to resolve this problem (e.g. pumping the laguna dry), but Spain's on going economic crisis, makes this unlikely. As noted above, the number of White-headed Ducks here has fluctuated in recent years. Largest numbers are often present in autumn/winter (e.g. 400+ in Sept 2010), but far fewer could have been present in recent years. Marbled Duck are regular in small numbers on passage and Ferruginous Duck are occasional (e.g. 6 in Sept. 2010). In normal years waterfowl can be present in good numbers (inc. Red-crested Pochard) as can herons (inc. Night Heron, Purple Heron, Little Bittern and, occasionally Great White Egret), Purple Gallinule, grebes (esp Black-necked) gulls and marsh terns (esp. Whiskered). Flamingo are regular and a variety of waders appear especially when water levels are low. Pratincole often hawk over the area (esp. mornings and evenings during migration periods) in good numbers. Large numbers of hirundines (inc. Red-rumped Swallows & Crag Martins) and swifts (Common, Pallid and, less often, Alpine) can also be seen here. Passerines may include the ubiquitous Stonechat, Corn Bunting and Crested Lark. Reedbeds hold Reed and Great Reed and Penduline Tit (the latter more numerous in winter). (Note: Contra to some reports Moustached Warbler is not found here although Sedge Warbler is a common passage migrant…….). The declining Rufous Bushchat may still be present, but most recent records seem to be of migrants. Melodious Warbler is present as, later in the season, are much smaller numbers of Olivaceous Warbler (both frequent the tamarisks so knowing their songs helps). Surrounding farmlands have Stone Curlew and all the more familiar Spanish raptors may be seen in the area (including the increasing Black-winged Kite). For this species (and other raptors) try taking the first turning to the south off the service road. This road takes you to an open area (g) south of the main lagoon (which can also be reached by the boardwalk as noted above).
Check all buteos in this area carefully as Long-legged has been seen in the general area in the recent past. Finally there are two small lagunas 3-4 km south-east of Laguna de Medina – Laguna de Las Canteras (3.75 ha) and Laguna de Tejón (6 ha). Both are prone to drying out, but when wet are have White-headed Duck (plus Red-crested Pochard & Black-necked Grebe) .Other sites for this and other species are much more accessible, but you can reach Laguna de Las Canteras on foot only along an official sendero or footpath (see below). Laguna de Tejón is to the south a further 1.5 km down the track to your left as you approach the first lagoon, but the official footpath seems to end at Las Canteras. Be careful here as the one time I visited a large herd of frisky long-horned cattle were being herded along the track. When wet this is a delightful, if little known,site. Access: The Laguna de Medina is just east of the A381 autovia about 5km south of the junction with the E5/A4. It is well signposted, off this main road near a large concrete works. The path continues beyond the turning to the hide for a few hundred metres offering occasional glimpses at the ‘back’ of the laguna – often the best area for herons, ducks etc. Although it “ends” in a small loop you can continue along the cycle track and board walk for with views over a reedy stream and nearby farmland. For Laguna de las Canteras & Laguna del Tejon – take the southern service road c2.6 km from the roundabout off Exit 4 (or 1.4 km from the underpass) to a gated track on the right. This is the start of a 2.7 km sendero (footpath) to to Laguna de las Canteras (see http://issuu.com/cadizturismo/docs/300senderoscadiz). It might be possible to negotiate access by car at the finca here if your Spanish is good enough.
NW9 – * Medina Sidonia – Paterna de Rivera area Why visit? – Raptors & outside chance of Little Bustard é- viewing from car This area of open farmland north-east of the A 381, along the A 389 towards Paterna de Rivera and continuing along the CA 620 back towards Alcala de los Gazules can be excellent for raptors (I’ve had Merlin here in winter) and all the usual ‘farmland species’. Black Kite can be numerous along the A381 here during passage. Little Bustards apparently still occur here (despite the steady encroachment of wind farms). Some of the impressive crags along the road back to Alcala hold small colonies of Lesser Kestrels – a rare opportunity to see them in what must be their natural habitat. It can also be worth getting off the A381 and exploring the service road here. Paterna is also one of the centres for raising fighting bulls so any diversion across fields here would be very unwise to say the least! However, most birds can be seen from the road – look out for Montagu’s Harrier, Calandra and Crested Larks plus, in winter Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and, potentially, Merlin. Access: Take the A389 off the A381 towards Paterna de Rivera (Note: this is the second and most southerly exit for Paterna off the A381). For the Alcala road turn right in Paterna and then shortly thereafter left (signposted).
NW10 - ** Lagunas de Puerto Real - Lagunas de Taraje, San Antonio & Comisario . Why visit? – Spanish Sparrow, White-headed Duck, wildfowl (Marbled Teal?) é- viewing from car along track; paths can be muddy & impassable The road from the A381 towards Puerto Real (A 408) is excellent for raptors in the summer being particularly good for Black Kite (probably connected to the proximity of a large rubbish tip!), Montagu's Harrier, Short-toed & Booted Eagle (a few of the latter remain in winter). In winter and passage periods, Marsh Harriers and Osprey occur. In addition Black-winged Kite has recently colonised the area. The first lake, Laguna Comasario (a), is on your right as you come west from the A381 (but easily missed as it's well screened by trees). This lake often dries out, but may hold Marbled Teal. (Note: - despite what it says elsewhere, the access points to this lake are closed off by barbed wire which is backed by and prohibitive notices. You can see over a small part of the lake from the entrance track, but it would be irritatingly easy to set up a view point offering superb views a few metres beyond the fence!).
Stop opposite the Venta Rosario (b) for a distant view of the reed bound Laguna de San Antonio (c). In winter it can attract a good roost of Marsh Harrier and other raptors (sometimes inc. Booted Eagle). Red, Black and Black-winged Kite can also be seen here. This lake is said to be accessible from the footpath south of Laguna de Taraje, but no evidence of the connecting path currently exists.
Laguna de Taraje (g) is a superb little gem hidden away from view down a reasonably good track. It's worth pausing at the start of the track in the pines (d) as Red-necked Nightjar may be seen here. The track offers raptor friendly views over the countryside (e). Similarly, the views obtainable on the southern side of the main road are also worth more than a few minutes scrutiny (unless the new ‘wind farm’ has disturbed birds here). As you come along the track check the fences round the small cortijof (f) for Spanish Sparrow – a small flock often feeds here. The laguna holds an excellent variety of wintering ducks (Wigeon, Teal, Gadwall, Red-crested Pochard, Shoveler, etc.), but the key species here are White-headed Duck, Purple Gallinule, Marbled Teal and, possibly, Crested Coot (both of which elude me here). Note that a 'scope will be needed to sort through all the waterfowl with confidence from the track as they can be distant and that the light is often better in the mornings .In wet years check the flooded area (h) for Little Ringed Plover. In the late summer and autumn the site can attract up large numbers (thousands) of White Stork, many of which feed on the nearby Miramundo rubbish tip. Autumn/winter visits are also a good time to look out for Stone Curlews (look where the footpath heads south). The laguna often attracts passing Ospreys (although these are more regular during passage). The footpath (i) is often somewhat ‘squelchy’, but the bank here can give more views across the laguna. There is a small white hide here, but the path to it now seems impossible to find. Similarly the footpath to Laguna san Antonio now longer seems to exist. If you missed Spanish Sparrow at (f) continue for c1km to the finca (j) which also often attracts a small flock. Access: All of these lagunas (Lagunas de Puerto Real) lie north of the minor road (A408/CA3200) between Paterna de Rivera and Puerto Real 4 to 7 km west of the junction with the A381. Laguna Comasario and Laguna de San Antonio can now, it seems, only be viewed distantly from the road. Laguna de Taraje is reached via a track on the right c9km from the A381 (see map). On the southern side of the lake a track (not drivable), runs south along the side of the lake, allowing good views and eventually runs back to the pines on the main road. (It is off this track, to the left, that there's reputed to be a path to Laguna San Antonio).
NW11 - ** Lagunas del Puerto Santa Maria Why visit? – White-headed Duck & Crested Coot é - Laguna Juncosa viewable from track, but track/paths beyond can be muddy & impassable Although well publicised, these lagunas are rather inconveniently tucked away between Jerez and Puerto de Santa Maria and the largest laguna – reputed to be the best - is not, unlike other sites, easy to view. Hence it is not, perhaps, explored as often as they should be by visiting birders (including myself). Although most references only mention three lagunas (Lagunas Juncosa, Salada and Chica), there are several more lagunas in this complex (and were probably more still before they were drained). Note - The usual and most convenient route to this site is along a road (recently metalled) following a small canal, but recently this has sprouted ‘No Entry’ signs (see map) denying access – something local motorists seem to ignore. If you want to ‘play safe’ access can be gained by turning left at the roundabout c1km further south and heading through the area of housing and then across this road and the canal to the lagunas. This site holds Purple Gallinule, White-headed Duck, Crested Coot and Marbled Ducks (although the latter two can be hard to find). The skies can be full of Collared Pratincole and, if the lagunas have a lot of visible mud, other waders (Black-winged Stilt, Little Ringed Plover, Greenshank, etc). Marsh terns also occur. Check the larks here for Calandra and Short-toed. All the expected raptors may be seen in the area including, during passage and in winter, Osprey. (Moustached Warbler is sometimes said to occur here, but the recent Spanish atlas and other sources suggests this is not the case).
The first laguna you reach Laguna Juncosa (a) - is shallow and often overgrown with reeds. Although sometimes regarded as the least interesting of these lagunas, even when not at its best it often holds Glossy Ibis, Purple Gallinue, Green Sandpipers, etc. so is well worth examining. When conditions are good it (i.e. after a wet winter) can be alive with birds – in 2013 it hosted Ferruginous Duck, a couple of Crested Coot and more recently has had Little Crake. A public track runs along the
eastern side of the laguna, but the one on the south side is private. Unfortunately, this often has the best views of the laguna. It may, though, be possible to walk along this track. Check the tamarisks from late April onwards for Olivaceous Warbler. The sunken track down the next two lagunas is badly rutted and, if the water levels are high access to laguna Chica can be denied by thick 'gloopy' mud. Laguna Salada (b), is said by some to be the best for the target species, is difficult to view and apparently access can be denied by the warden. This laguna can be viewed from the surrounding fields, but views are often obscured and distant – all the expected ducks can be seen although getting good views of margin hugging birds (coots!) is problematical. Distant, albeit more open and panoramic views can be obtained from further along the 'canal' road (but see note on access). Laguna Chica (c) presumably holds similar birds to Laguna Salada and viewing is marginally better. However, due to flooding. I've only managed to get a good look a couple of times – seeing little each time. There are two other lagunas in the area; Laguna del Hato Carne (d) and Laguna de San Bartolome (e). Laguna del Hato Carne (sometimes called Las Marismas de Pozo Lozano) is very shallow and is more often dry than wet. When in good condition (wet!) it attracts numerous hawking Collared Pratincoles, Flamingos etc. (although even from the laguna's edge birds can be distant. Reaching this laguna is problematical; a rather bumpy tracks (f) behind Parque Acuatico is soon too rutted to drive (although it's only c500-600m further to the laguna), but a second track (g) gets much closer and is in better condition. Although marked as a 'camino particular' (private road), the sign is old and rusted: a local contact tells me that, in fact, access is allowed (and the route is certainly well used by cyclists and delivery vans). If the depression is wet then the poorly marked path from Laguna Chica is usually badly flooded! Although you probably won't see birds available elsewhere, when wet it's certainly a place worth exploring if you have a sense of adventure. Laguna de San Bartolome now scarcely exists (although it struggles to reappear after heavy rains) and is hard to find in the maze of tracks that run through the small plots and houses. Even in a wet year only those with an insatiable desire to seek out obscure lagunas will want to bother (although the fields here may have a variety of Yellow Wagtails) Access: The Lagunas del Puerto Santa Maria are just north of the town of that name near the Aquasherry Park. Approach on the A2002 from El Portal road or CA 31 from Jerez. At the roundabout marking the junction of these roads head west along a minor road past Aquasherry Park (Parque Acuatico) signposted "area de recreativa”. After c1km the road turns sharp left (by a casino) and, shortly thereafter, a concrete/tarmac 'track’ turns off on the right. This was the usual route to the site, but is now guarded by 'No Entry' signs – ignored by locals! Should you risk it, follow this road beside the irrigation canal for c2km until Laguna Juncosa appears on your right. Turn right onto a narrow bridge over the canal to reach the lagunas. Alternatively follow continue to a roundabout , go right and follow a metalled road through an area of small plots and houses hto reach the bridge (see map above). Park just beyond Laguna Juncosa to follow the dirt track down towards Laguna Salada on foot. For the other lagunas see text.
NW12 - * Lagunas de Chiclana Why visit?
– Flamingo, White-headed Duck, waders, raptors on passage Coot may be possible); exploring ‘new ground’. é - path to lagunas bumpy and poor – viewing from track very limited
Two lakes, Laguna de Jeli (f) and Laguna de Montello (g), form the "Lagunas de Chiclana" and have similar species to other lakes in the area. They are much less frequently visited than other sites as most sources suggest that they are only accessible by footpath (a) involving a walk of between 5 and 10 km depending on whether you visit one or both) and the fact that they may dry out in summer. However, a viable driving route exists which cuts walking down to a few minutes (see Map 19 & ‘Access’). Due to the proximity these lagunas (esp Jeli) to the nearby Bahai de Cadiz, they attract birds from (esp. wintering wildfowl) that huge site. Laguna de Jeli is the (f) much larger of the two and easier to view; Laguna de Montello (g) is hidden in a fold in the land and visible only at a distance. Take the road (b) through the outskirts of Chiclana, over the motorway, past an old arch and onto a good gravel track (c) (see ‘Access’ below). This track gives good views over open field so can be good for larks and harriers. Where the track divides, go right by a cactus hedge (d); check here for Rufous Bushchat as one was
seen here in August 2011. At the end of the ‘hedge’ turn right down a track (e) towards Laguna de Jeli (f), parking after a short distance
This track soon turns into footpath that takes you through a gate to th laguna beyond. Good views of the lake can be had to your right – the muddy margins may attract good numbers of waders and it is often a good roosting site for White Stork. The species present may also include Black-necked Grebe, Purple Gallinule, Flamingo, White-headed and Marbled Duck (and possibly other species including Crested Coot). The surrounding farmland attracts Montagu’s Harrier and Long-legged Buzzard has occurred. Laguna de Montello is on the right off the original track a little beyond the turning to Laguna de Jeli. This small lake suddenly comes into view on the left after 10 minutes walking (although the track is rough but drivable … unless a tractor comes along!) It is much smaller and has reedy margins which shelter Purple Gallinule, but a scope is needed and views are distant. The nearby tip may attract Eagle Owl – a possibility I have yet to investigate. Access: Take the A390 towards Chiclana and c300m beyond the junction with the E5 turn first right at the roundabout. Go past the football pitch and after c300m take first right at the top of the rise into Av. De los Campesinos. Continue across a bridge over the E5 and past a ruined gateway on your right. After another c3.5 km take a right hand fork (past a cacti hedge on your left). As the distant Laguna de Jeli comes into view (partly hidden to you right) park where a rougher track joins at an acute angle. The laguna a pleasant 10 minute walk from here. Laguna de Montellano is further north and off to the right (see map). If you want to walk from the A390 (and in cool weather this could be a pleasant option for Laguna de Jeli) stop c4 km after the second turning off for El Berrueco where there’s a prominent sign for the ‘Club Aero Modelismo’ on your left. The ‘sendero’ opposite should take you to the laguna.
Cadiz & Cadiz Bay (Bahía de Cádiz) Why visit? – Flamingo, gulls, terns waders, raptors on passage (Crested Coot possible); exploring ‘new ground’. é - see site accounts.
This huge (10,500 hectares) complex of salinas, creeks and mudflats represents a rare habitat in Spain and is consequently greatly celebrated by Spanish birdwatchers. It attracts many of the birds associated with estuaries further north so is, perhaps, less attractive to birdwatchers from the UK, Naturally, though, but it also attracts more southern species like Black-winged Stilt, Flamingo, Audouin’s and Slender-billed Gull etc. In winter totals of waterfowl, waders, gulls, terns etc. may reach 140,000 birds. There is a useful little book on the area’s birds ("Guia de Aves acuaticas y marimas del Parque Natural Bahia de Cadiz”) but it is available only in Spanish. There's also an ambitious restoration programme in hand run by 'Salarte' to preserve and restore salinas for wildlife. This involves both encouraging the small colony of Spoonbill found at La Covacha, providing nest sites for the returning Osprey. And much else La Covacha is not easily accessible but a visit might be possible by contacting 'Salarte' (see http://www.salarte.org/ ). However, note that, unless you want the ‘winter birding experience’ in sunshine & shirtsleeves the Bay, although rightly celebrated, is not the best option on a brief visit (unless you merely want to add waders/terns/gulls to your tally). Other sites, notably Sanlucar-Bonanza, offer many of the same birds (albeit in smaller numbers), some specialities less easy to find here (if at all) and are more conveniently placed to explore other sites. The size of this area can be daunting! Arguably, the best single stop are the footpaths in the central (San Fernando) area. Winter totals fluctuate (sometimes wildly), but the following figures give some idea the numbers (and principal species) found in the Bay in winter : Great White Egret (30-35), Black Stork (20-30), Flamingo (c5,000), Spoonbill (300+), Osprey (c30), Stonecurlew (c300), Slender-billed Gull (250+ in good years), Audouin’s Gull (70+ in good years), Mediterranean Gull (<450) and Caspian Tern (c120) plus more familiar species like Dunlin (<30,000), both godwits (c2-3,000 of each), Curlew (<1,000), Grey Plover (c3,000), Ringed Plover (c6,000), Redshank (,3,000) plus smaller numbers of Whimbrel, Greenshank, Curlew Sandpiper and Knot. Resident Black-winged Stilt, Avocet and Kentish Plover are present in their thousands. There is a new and impressive interpretive centre at the base of Punta del Boqueron and another for the Marismas de los Toruños (El Puerto de Santa Maria). Both have leaflets on the area’s footpaths (senderos). There is now an excellent leaflet, available in English, on the birds of the Bahía de Cádiz which gives details of the footpaths (senderos) in the area. The Spanish version can be downloaded from http://adsise.com/? p=25&lang=es-es.
NW13 – * Cadiz town Why visit? – Large numbers of waders, terns & shearwaters; Monk Parakeet é - good
Particularly during onshore winds, seabirds (terns and shearwaters) can be seen from the seawall round the older part of Cadiz gives a great view over the sea. A morning site as you look due west. However, a tripod and 'scope is needed to exploit the view which may draw some curious stares! The city’s parks have a healthy population of Monk Parakeet. A ferry runs across to El Puerto (2€) from which a selection of terns and gulls (inc. Mediterranean Gull) may be seen. Access: Follow the signs! Note that parking in the old town and, in season, by the beach can be difficult – parking further out and catching the bus in can be easier
NW14 – ** El Puerto de Santa Maria Area - Bahía de Cádiz (North) These marshes are smaller and even more hemmed in by roads and industry than those further south. However, they still have plenty of potential. Note: ‘El Puerto de Santa Maria’ is often just signed as ‘El Puerto’.
NW 14.1 – ** Salinas Santa Maria & Dhesa de las Yeguas (‘InnerMarshes’) Why visit? – Waders, terns gulls, Lesser Short-toed Lark, etc (plus an outside chance of Eagle Owl); your chance to explore! é - good views by car from tracks A good minor road (CA 313) south off the El Portal - Laguna de Medina road skirts the drier marshes that form the outer rim of the Bay and eventually reaches the A4. It passes a large rubbish tip (a) which is good for Cattle Egret, White Stork and Black Kites, but the principal attraction is Eagle Owl which sometimes hunts around the rubbish tip here. On the right (as you come from Jerez direction), a track heads off towards the Salinas Santa Maria ( b). In some ways this is a ‘poor man’s Bonanza Salinas’ as it has similar habitats and many of the same species (Flamingos, Slender-billed Gulls, waders, etc), but with far fewer birds and generally more distant views. However, it has the advantage of being less than 15 minutes from Laguna de Medina. There are a handful of pools to the south of the track which attract Pratincoles in the summer. Both Short-toed and Lesser Shorttoed Lark can be easy to see along the track. The salt marsh on the right (c) has small pools that can attract waders and the Salinas on the left often have Slender-billed Gull. The track remains surprisingly good until you cross over the motorway (d) after which it deteriorates rapidly. However, as the birdlife then becomes rather less interesting (apart from a large Yellow-legged Gull colony). Note – beware of heavy lorries, laden with salt, that thunder along this track spewing out a mini-dust storm as they go. Note – the salinas here proved still attractive in March 2015, but visitors in the following September report that recent developments had made them far less attractive for birds. They may yet return to form, but may no longer be worth the detour. Following the CA313 towards Puerto Real you pass a small pine woodland - the Dehesa de las Yeguas (e).Turn off at the Area Recreativa to explore the woods and a track running out into the marshes. Red-necked Nightjar are found in the woods whilst the track continues out into the salinas (f). There may well be Short-toed and Lesser Short-toed Lark here, but the track is in dreadful condition. It is c10km from (a) on the map to the A4 – this route has good views over the salinas and makes a more interesting, if slower, route from Laguna de Medina to
Cadiz Bay than the motorway. There is also a long distance footpath that heads southeast from the sharp bend on the CA 313 which may be worth a quick look for scrubland birds. Access: Take the minor road (CA 3109/A3202) west from Laguna Medina past the concrete works towards El Portal. After 5km turn left onto the CA 3113 to explore the area.
NW 14.2 - ** Coto de la Isleta & Salinas de la Tapa. Why visit? – Waders, terns, gulls (inc. Slender-billed), an outside chance of a rare tern; your chance to explore! é - paths bumpy and poor – viewing from track very limited The Coto de la Isleta (a) is a small area of rough ground sandwiched between the railway line and the Salinas de Tapa just off the CA 32 and adjacent to a small industrial estate and Valdelgrama station.
The salinas here has a large autumnal gull/tern roost which partly explains the very high ‘hit rate ‘ for Lesser Crested and Roseate Terns here. It is also the centre for an intensive ringing programme. However, this is a working salt works and thus strictly private so venturing beyond (b) and into the salinas is not possible. However, according to a new leaflet (see introduction to the area) a 5 km footpath (c – e) runs round the outer edge of these salt pans from the ‘Environmental Resources Centre (CRA Tiro Pinchon), This should allow good views of the saltpans (I’ve not tried it yet). Limited views are also possible from the track running along the spine of the Coto de la Isleta. Note that some local guides – see introductory notes – may be able to take you into the salt wortks. In addition to the terns noted above the salinas are excellent for waders (including autumnal & winter flocks of Stone Curlew) plus Audouin’s & Slender-billed Gulls. Some maps show a cycle path connecting to (e) and the track (a/b), but on GoogleEarth this seems to require crossing an unbridged ditch! Another area I’ve not fully explored is the track (f) running along the northern bank of the Rio Guadalete – it might be worth a look … Note - Directions i) (below) I have used, but ii) is a bit speculative – let me know if they’re correct!
Access: i) Take the CA32 north from Puerto real towards Puerto de Santa Maria continue straight on at a large roundabout on the CA32 (by Valdelagrana station) but go right after c600m into the industrial estate onto Camino Tiro de Pichon. Go straight on to pass beneath the railway. Turn right at a T-junction for 1km then take a track off to the left which runs round the edge of the salt pans. ii) From the roundabout opposite the station continue north on the CA 32 to the second roundabout (just over 1km) where you turn left onto an industrial estate. Continue north to the Rio Guadalete where I’m told you can pass under the main road and access the northern end of the footpath. This is one of the few sites you can visit by train – alight at Valdegrana station and head north to take the road under the railway. For leaflets on footpaths see - http://adsise.com/.
NW 14.3 – * Marismas de los Toruños & Pinar de La Algaida. Why visit? – Waders, terns gulls, etc.; bushes can be good for passerines during migration é - good paths but sandy beaches; ‘noddy train’ along ‘spine' of peninsula . Arguably this site is not worth the potentially long walks involved, but it could be fun if you have a bike (these can be hired at the Visitors’ Centre) and the ‘Noddy’ train/beach may provide an excuse if you have a family in tow. Having negotiated the exit onto the Valdegrana road you can park to explore the cycle/footpath south to the Salinas de Puerto (a) which may hold good numbers of waders at low tide. Otherwise continue to the new Visitor’s Centre where you can also grab a coffee or a bite to eat. There are some more old salinas here (b) and a wide track (c), legacy of a failed building project, runs down the spine of this marshy peninsular. It is very popular with walkers and cyclists – it even has a ‘Noddy train’ in the summer (3€ per person, min 12 people). It is also possible to hire cycles from the impressive Information Centre. It is best visited on a low or rising tide. Side paths allow access to the beach (with Andalucia’s largest colony of Little Terns) and out to sea. A footbridge (e) connects to a path round to (a) and (f). There are also a couple of fairly pointless tower hides towards (d) and just over the bridge. On a low or rising tide good views can be had of waders and the scrub along the path may attract passage migrants. The wooded area (f), Pinar de la Algaida (not to be confused with the site near Bonanza) is said to be good for Chameleon and may hold migrants during passage. It is probably not worth walking all the way to (d) unless you’re keen to explore the whole area. From the Information Centre it is c3km to the footbridge over the San Pedro ( e), c5km to (d) and a circuit from the centre via (e) and (a) is c9km. Access: Take the CA32 Puerto Real road turning off to Valdegrana (c300m north of the bridge over the Rio San Pedro. NOTE: If arriving from the south you use a “Cambio Sentido” so you have to filter right and then cross both lanes. Once on the Valdegrana road either park to the south of the roundabout for (a) or go straight on at the roundabout into a Avenida de Mar for c1km to the visitors’ centre ( b) opposite Calle Zahara de la Sierra). As 14.2 this site can be accessed by train (alight valderana station) although you will have to walk or catch a bus to the Visitors’ Centre. For leaflets on footpaths see http://adsise.com/.
NW15 - * San Fernando Marshes - Bahía de Cádiz (Centre) A new and impressive interpretation centre has recently opened at the base of the Punta del Boqueron. Although in Spanish the displays give a good insight into the area. An English language version of the leaflet on birdwatching in the area is available from here. There are a number of access points into the Bahía de Cadiz and there are well established footpaths (senderos) some of which lead to bird hides. The first three sites are accessed via San Fernando, the fourth just beyond that town towards Cadiz and a fifth via Chiclana
NW 15.1 - ** Tres Amigos Salt Pans (see map 24) Why visit? – the best one stop site for waders, gulls (inc. Slender-billed & Audouin’s), terns. é - viewing from car park & on generally good gravel paths From a well signposted car park (on the right) a good footpath (c7km) runs round the Tres Amigos Salt Pans (a – Map 24) enclosing some of the best salt pans in the area for birds. Although this path is well used by joggers and cyclists it is, arguably, the single best site in the area. If you intend to visit only one area in the Bay then this is probably the one to go for. Good views can be obtained along the road – expect a good variety of waders (Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Kentish Plover, godwits, etc), gulls (inc. Slender-billed and Audouin’s), Flamingo, Spoonbill, etc., but it is worth taking the footpath for better views. Due to the coastal location, increased by their position on a long spit, the trees and bushes here can be attractive to passerine migrants; they also provide shade, something lacking out on the salinas. Being better watched than most sights rare waders are regularly found here. Access: Take exit 7 toward San Fernando (Sur) at the first large roundabout (Glorieta de Gómez Pablo), take the 1st exit onto Ctra de la Batería de la Ardilla. Follow this road through two roundabouts and the sendero is on your left after several km. This circular walk accesses several hides. Apparently the whole area is managed specifically for migrating birds and has a good track record for unusual species. For leaflets on footpaths see - http://adsise.com/.
NW 15.2 - * Doleres Salt Pans (see map 24) Why visit? – Alternative to 15.1 but with less shade. é - good gravel path round area These salt pans (b – on Map 24) have turned up a number of unusual species and are easily accessed off the CA-33 into Cádiz. They can also be accessed by train (alight at Bahia Sur station) so this is a good site for those depending on public transport. All of the birds noted under 15.1 can be seen here. In winter look for Ospreys from the train! However, there is even less shade than at Tres Amigos Salt Pans which is a major consideration in hot weather. The track here is often used by cyclists and joggers who can cause some disturbance. As elsewhere here a telescope is very useful.
Access: Go past San Fernando on the CA33 towards Cádiz. After c3 km after the last exit to San Fernando the road swings right towards Cádiz. Take the ‘flyover’ here (to Torre Garda) and then the junction down to the Salinas on your right. The sendero runs along the road towards San Fernando. Alternatively park near the Bahia Sur station and take the footpath along the railway line. For leaflets on footpaths see - http://adsise.com/.
NW 15. 3 - * Punta del Boqueron (see map 24) Why visit? – Excellent Visitor’s Centre plus the option for seawatching or waders/gulls/terns. é - access along track & some boardwalks, but sandy This long narrow peninsular (c) allows views both over the sea (terns, gulls & shearwaters) and across the mudflats of the Bay. For seawatching morning is better as you’re facing east, but for wading birds the light is better in the afternoon. As with Tres Amigos Salt Pans ( NW15.1) the narrow peninsular can be good for falls of passerines. Drive as far as the track allows (with salt pans and saltings on view to the left) and then walk down towards the end of the spit (c3km). Birds are perhaps more distant than at NW15.1, but Caspian Terns more frequent. If you’ve time have a look at the new centre. Staff are helpful, but not all speak fluent English. (see photos under NW 15) Access: Follow directions as per Tres Amigos, but continue straight on as the road becomes Camino de Gallineras. At a roundabout (shortly after the road swings left) take the first exit towards the point. Park at the end and follow the path through the dunes. For leaflets on footpaths see - http://adsise.com/.
NW 15.4 – * Sendero Estero/Cano Carrascon (see map 24) Why visit? – Waders, gulls, terns, etc.; good area for Mediterranean Gull. é - path bumpy and poor Another large area of saltings and Salinas (d). Various footpaths snake out onto the saltings. Arguably the least attractive area to visit as there is no shade, but waders can be tame along the front here and various cafes for a quick snack. Local birdwatchers tell me it’s a particularly good site for Mediterranean Gull and wintering Osprey. Access: Follow directions off the CA33-as per Tres Amigos (15.1), but c600m from the exit turn left at a roundabout onto the Ave. de la Constitucion de 1978 which you follow through three roundabouts until you reach Ave. de la Ronda de Estero where you go left. Continue north here for c800m to park opposite Calle Puente Lavaera. The footpath heads out onto the saltings from here. For leaflets on footpaths see http://adsise.com/.
NW 15. 5 – * Playa de la Caseria (see map 24) Why visit? – An option if you want to leave the car behind. é - paths bumpy and poor Another site (e) that is accessible by train. It has Kentish Plover and many of the other species mentioned in this section. It’s c1km north of the San Fernando railway station so could be visited via public transport. It could be an interesting alternative to other sites although likely to be quite disturbed. Access: Exit the CA33 north (next turning west after the exit for San Fernando Station). The go right onto Calle Ferrocarril and then north onto Calle Escritor German Caos Roldan, then first right onto Calle Allonso de Ortega and left onto Calle Magallanes which you follow to the beach (in total just under 1.5 km from the CA33). For leaflets on footpaths see http://adsise.com/.
NW16 - ** Chiclana - Bahía de Cádiz (South) Why visit? – Waders, terns, gulls etc – a good option arriving from the south é - a number of sites appear to have good potential as they may be viewed from the car. This part of the Bay is more easily accessible if travelling up from Tarifa or across from Medina. Views from Sancti Petri will allow you to pick up most ‘key species’ with a ‘scope. This can be a good spot for Caspian Tern and numbers of wintering Little Stint can be impressive (100+). I do not know sites – 16.1, 16.3 & 16.4 - very well so feedback would be very useful. I have not yet visited 16.2 (b – La Coquina) - at all, but it appears to be worth a visit as it seems to give access to some good habitat.
NW 16.1 - * St Maria de Bartivas Salt Pans (see Map 25) Why visit? –– Waders, terns, gulls etc é - paths should be negotiable by wheelchair – access by car limited. A drivable gravel track (a) takes you out along the northern bank of the Rio Iro and continues onto some salt pans. There are several short walks here and a number of information panels. There's a large information centre/restaurant – 'the House of Salt' – here and its open upper floor forms an excellent viewpoint. All the typical waders of the area – Avocet, Kentish Plover, etc and gulls present here. Osprey are frequent in winter. A track also runs along the southern bank, but access may be restricted here. Access: Take the A390 south from the E5 for Chiclana. After c1.5km take the first exit at a roundabout onto Av. de los Descrumbrimilentos for c1km. At a roundabout just north of the Rio Iro take the first exit right and park after c200m next to the waterworks. If arriving from Sancti Petritake the A2134 north along the side of the marshes taking last exit at large roundabout onto Av. del la Diputacion which you follow for c3km to the roundabout north of the Rio Iro as noted above. For leaflets on footpaths see http://adsise.com/.
NW 16.2 - * La Isleta & La Coquina (see Map 25) Why visit? –– Waders, terns, gulls etc é - viewing should be possible from a car I have yet to visit this area, but it appears that tracks here link the village of La Coquina to the small island, unimaginatively named of La Isleta ( b – on Map 25) and through the nearby salt pans. From the island you can get good views of the main channel – possible a good spot for wintering Osprey. If the tracks are drivable this should be a good site for those with restricted mobility. Access: Take the Camino de la Isleta (off the Av. de Diputacion) to La Coquina. Here tracks run south on to La Isleta and surrounding salt pans.
NW 16.3 - * Carboneros salt pans (see Map 25 – length 5km) Why visit? –– Waders, terns, gulls etc é - paths negotiable by wheelchair with care This sendero (c) takes you on a circular route round interesting saltpans which have several 'observation screens' and information boards. It is excellent for waders, gulls, etc. As with 16.1 & 16.2 this is better location for viewing across the mudflats in the morning than the Punta del Boqueron as you will not be looking into the sun. Access: – To avoid going through the centre of Chiclana head south on the E5 and taking the southern exit (Exit 10) for Chiclana. At the roundabout take the second exit to follow the Av de los Reys Catolicos south (it runs parallel to the E5) for one kilometre. Then turn right into Ctra de las Lagunas (CA 2134). Continue along this road going straight on at two roundabouts until at the third roundabout (c5km) you turn left onto Ctra de la Barrosa The sendero is c1km after you turn onto this road opposite Calle Santa Maria la Morgarizas. For leaflets on footpaths see http://adsise.com/.
NW 16.3 - ** Sancti Petri Village (see Map 25) Why visit? –– Waders, terns, gulls etc é - good viewing from promenade Situated on a narrow peninsula old Sancti Petri is now largely derelict. As you approach it’s worth checking the old salt pans en route (d) for waders. The promenade on the narrow peninsula (e) here offers an excellent viewpoint from which to see a good variety of waders, gulls and terns. If you want to check out the mudflats then try to visit in the morning at low tide (viewing west in the late afternoon can be difficult here. The salinas as you reach the foot of the peninsula can be alive with waders (Little Stint can be numerous) This site is, arguably, the best option for a quick ‘in-and-out’ to pick up missing species of wader as most species can be seen from the car. Access: Follow directions as for 16.2 but when reaching the Ctra de la Barrosa drive south for c5km and into the village. For leaflets on footpaths see - http://adsise.com/
NW 16.4 - * Laguna de la Paja Why visit? –– Herons, ducks, etc.; exploring a little known site. access uncertain, but in theory good
If you're driving south on the E 5, or even the N 340, past Chiclana you could well miss the Laguna de la Paja since it often looks like no more than a grassy field which isn't surprising as the name means 'Lake of Straw'. However, when wet this shallow reedy 39ha laguna can harbour birds such as Black-necked Grebe, Great-white Egret, Squacco & Purple Heron, Ferruguinous, White-headed and Marbled Duck, Purple Gallinule and, infrequently, even Crested Coot. It is also home to several rare plants endemic to
SW Iberia (Armeria cadiz, Eryngium galioides and Frankenia boissieri) and amphibians (e.g. Southern Marbled Newt). Apart from its rather nondescript appearance, another problem here is that birds can easily disappear into the abundant reeds. The final problem is one of access since, although there's a well made footpath (a) that skirts the top of the northern edge of the laguna, there's nowhere convenient to park very close at hand. You can park a 100m or so along the A 9034 or pull off to the south at (c) and walk back to the entrance. The gate here is padlocked, but with the gate falling apart and no fence to either side there's no barrier to walking along the footpath. The weedy gravel path heads across the reserve, but views across the laguna are limited due to the dense reeds. Taking Ctra de las Lagunas along the south side of the reserve look out for a patch of concrete beneath the trees (d) where it's possible to pull off the road, albeit with great care; this is easily missed and traffic here can be busy so you might have to turn round and try again! Views from here are a little better than from the path. Finally, you can continue further along the Ctra de las Lagunas and take the first right after the laguna into Callejon de Borreguitos where the first track on the right (Camino de los Montes Universales) leads down to two ruined yellow buildings at the back of the reserve (e). To the south of the laguna the open pine wood on light sandy soils, criss-crossed with paths holds Red-necked Nightjar. (Note also that Laguna de Jeli NW 12 is close at hand). In wet years Purple Gallinule can be abundant here and this is then a particularly good site for Ferruginous Duck (9 in April 2013). Access: The laguna is just south of Exit 10 with the N 340 (the old main road) to the east and Ctra de las Lagunas to the south. It's just beyond the now closed Polanco furniture store (hence the alternative name 'Laguna Polanco'). Callejon de Borreguitos which is just under 1.5 km from the roundabout off the N 340 and the Camino de los Montes Universales is a further c250 m (it may be possible to park at the end of this track).
2 – SOUTH-WEST CADIZ PROVINCE
Introduction - This area is defined by Atlantic and Mediterranean to the west/south, the ChiclanaMedina Sidonia road to the north and the A381 to the north-east. The dualled A381 neatly bisects the Alcornocales Natural Reserve which is, in this context, more easily dealt with in two halves. To the north-west there are some good areas of farmland (inc. some light woodland & olive groves) which harbour Stone Curlew, Little Bustard and Montagu’s Harrier. With the exception of the Barbate area and the Palmones estuary, wetlands are in short supply. Several sites are good for seawatching, but the area is best known for the migration of raptors (esp. the southern coast) and is the best place to see Ruppell’s Vulture in Europe. Both Little and White-rumped Swift occur. To the south the mountains of the Alcornocales dominate, but species like Black Wheatear are declining, as is Rufous Bushchat which has one of its strongholds here. Leaflets on this area can again be accessed from – http://adsise.com/ areas Parque del Estrecho Brena & Barbate (two) - Playa de los Lances.
They cover the following
SW 1 - * Embalse del Rio Barbate Why visit? – Chance of Spanish Imperial Eagle Black-winged Kite: hirundines & swift numbers can be high. é - good viewing along roads and tracks; some paths negotiable by wheelchair with care Embalse del Rio Barbate is a large reservoir immediately south of Alcalá de los Gazules (on the edge of the Alcornocales). Access is limited, the water margins distant and Embalse de Arcos has a greater number and variety of species. Spanish Imperial Eagles (most of which are part of a reintroduction programme) are sometimes seen in the low hills nearby. If open it’s worth popping into the Vistors’ Centre (see map) as the exhibition on the Alcornocales (with English guidebook) is informative, the small ‘garden’ has many typical plants of the area and the small shop sells useful booklets & maps. There is also a small venta here, but it’s not always open. The embalse and its margins can be explored via a number of footpaths, tracks and roads reached off the A2228 Benalup road and service road on beside the A381. The most obvious access point (a) is next to a large sign on the A2228 a short distance from the Visitors’ Centre towards Benalup. The path/track reaches down to the edge of the water and is here is signposted ‘Observatario’. This is a good watchpoint from which to see the local Ospreys (on the distant wooded peninsula to the right or perched on posts in the water) part of a recent re-introduction programme (mixed pairs of wild/introduced birds have bred). White Stork and Cattle Egret breed in the nearby pines and the sky can be alive with Bee-eaters and swifts. (In spring the fields here can be painted in brilliant purple by throngs of Vipers Bugloss). Check in the tamarisk and other bushes here for Olivaceous Warbler (plus migrants during passage). Still further along the road towards Benalup there’s a second path (b) through woodland which eventually runs down to the embalse. I have seen Red-necked Nightjar here and, once, a Black-winged Kite. Still further along the A2228 a minor road turns off towards the reservoir’s dam (presa). A parking area (c) provides a good view of the embalse (Ruddy Shelduck has been seen here) and it’s often a good spot for raptors (including Spanish Imperial Eagle). Crossing the dam continue to a second much smaller dam (d) - the open farmland here occasionally holds wintering Cranes. It also attracts Montagu’s Harrier and Black-winged Kite. Redrumped Swallows breed under the bridge here. Hirundines and swifts (including Alpine, Common, Pallid and, rarely, White-rumped) can be numerous over the embalse during passage periods. The grassy margins of the embalse may hold Tawny Pipit. Continue towards the A 2226 (Benalup – Los Barrios road) stopping regularly to scan the lightly wooded hillside (e). Look out here (and anywhere in the area) for Spanish Imperial Eagle (most of which are part of a re-introduction programme). There are several good watch points ( c & e) along this road for raptors – Bonelli’s and Spanish Imperial Eagles have been seen here. On reaching the A 2226 turn right for La Janda or left for the Embalse de Celemin (f). This reservoir lacks the interest of Barbate, but can be good in spring for Little Ringed Plover and other waders. Cuevas del Tajo de las Figures (along the road next to the Embalse de Celemin) is a must visit location for the less blinkered birder as its Neolithic cave paintings depict birds (arguably the oldest such representations in Europe). There’s no convenient parking place on the road, so park at the far end of the camping ground/area recreativa by the reservoir and walk through to cross the road below the caves (noticeboards show the route – check locally for opening times – it may be closed in hot weather due to fire risk)
A final approach route off the service road along the A381 c2km south of Palmosa services immediately after a disused venta. This takes you to the Lomo del Judio (g). After c1km take a track off to the left signposted “Hacienda del Agua”. (Note - If you ignore the turning and head straight on you reach an arm of the reservoir where egrets, waders, etc. may be seen). Although somewhat degraded, this is one of the few tracks in the area with decent foundations; it was built by the Romans and the original surface can be seen at several points. This track takes you along a short ridge offering distant views over the reservoir. There’s a large tree nesting colony of White Storks here and this route can also be good for migrants and in autumn and winter Iberian Grey Shrike may be present. Eagle Owls can sometimes be found at the far end of the walk. On the A 381 south of Alcala it's possible to take Exit 54 (h) and pull off on a small track at the top of the slip road facing the reservoir. This allows panoramic, if distant, views across the embalse – a check from here for Osprey rarely fails. Access: Access along the CA2228 and CA212 roads as per the map is problem free. However, the water levels in the embalse can make a big difference to the proximity and nature of the birds you see. For the Lomo del Judio access is off the service road a few km south of the La Palmosa service station. Follow signs to the Hacienda de Agua and continue along the track until you reach La Capitana after which the road becomes very poor. .For leaflets on footpaths see http://adsise.com/.
SW 2 – *** Benalup – Medina Sidonia Why visit? – Raptors (inc. Montagu’s Harrier and a chance of Spanish Imperial Eagle), Spanish Sparrow, Stone-curlew and Little Bustard.. é - excellent birding from good tracks
Although Benalup (or Casa Viejas as it was formerly known) overlooks La Janda, the hinterland to the north – specifically a shallow valley running parallel to the A 2225 and on towards Medina Sidonia - should not be ignored (for the Cantarranas area to the south see SW 3). As you approach Benalup from Alcalá de los Gazules on the CA 2228 (i.e. from the A381) there’s a bridge on a sharp bend (a). ‘Benalup bridge’ crosses a small tributary of the Rio Barbate which is lined with tall eucalypts where a handful of Spanish Sparrow can be seen with diligent searching amongst the flocks of House Sparrows. If heading into Benalup you go sharp right after crossing the bridge and then sharp left up a long hill (farm buildings here have nesting White Stork and Little Owl). However, where you swing left a track (b) runs along the shallow valley; This is the “Corredor Verde Dos Bahias” and a prohibitive sign announcing that access is for 'authorised vehicles only' (see note under the map). However, it is permissible to walk (or cycle) this route. The first section of the track (b) overlooks flower rich meadows that may hold Little Bustard or Black-winged Kite whilst the eucalyptus stand is another site for Spanish Sparrow and the scrubby hillside here may have Spanish Green Woodpecker. The whole valley is good for Quail, Stone-curlew, Montagu's Harrier, Calandra Lark, Tawny Pipit, Hoopoe and seems to funnel migrants. The the reed choked stream running along the valley may attract various herons (inc. Purple Heron, Squacco Heron, etc) and check any Glossy Ibis for Bald Ibis which is sometimes seen here. Muddy stretches may attract the odd small wader (inc. Black-winged Stilt, Plittle-ringed Plover). Just under 2km from the Benalup road a track heads off into the nearby hills; this track can also be reached via the road that passes the football stadium as it exits Benalup. This track (e) is excellent for c4.5 km, but, when it reaches an open area, it abruptly mutates into a rutted nightmare (f). Good all round views here mean that it can be a good spot for birds of prey (inc. Spanish Imperial and Bonelli's Eagle). Other tracks offer opportunities for further exploration on foot (one of these may offer closer views over the rice 'paddies'). Another 2km along the valley beyond the track into the hills you reach access track (d). If arriving off the A 2225 along the ridge above, look out for a white building topped by a small eagle - Venta la Casilla (recommended for its friendly staff and reasonably priced food). Take track (d) down to the track along the valley bottom. Check the verges for Hoopoe, esp. in autumn, as I've had up to 15 birds here! Montagu's Harrier usually present. The hillside (g) to the west of the track for Little Bustard (2-3 males) in the morning when the light is behind you. Although present all year, Little Bustard are best found in spring (March/April/May) when the male’s ‘raspberry’ call betrays their presence. The “Corredor Verde Dos Bahias” here has been regraded, but soon turns into a badly rutted track. It's worth investigating (on foot) further along the “Corredor Verde Dos Bahias”to the west to where the stream (h) crosses the track can have Purple Heron etc during migration. (NB Spectacled Warbler has bred near Malcocinado so check all small sylvias! If your interests extend beyond birds, butterflies and dragonflies, look out for the curious Mole Cricket which I’ve seen here). Back on the A 2225 head through San Jose de Malcocinado (think twice about eating in San Jose as its name means St Jose of 'Bad Cooking'!) and on into Los Badalejos. Continue on round a roundabout, but turn sharp right (immediately after the crash barrier) down a concrete road into the back of the village (if arriving from Medina it is often safer continue to the roundabout and come back on yourself). Continue along this track until you reach a junction; the hillside in front of you here (i) is a very reliable site for Little Bustard and, since you're facing east is a good place to look in the afternoon. (Note that the track running down from San Jose is often in very poor condition so we do not recommend approaching along it). This is another good area for Montagu's Harrier and also Black-winged Kite. A Long-legged Buzzard has been reported here so check all 'buzzards' carefully. You can follow the track here to the NE as it is in reasonable condition; check a small ford (j) for Spanish Sparrow. Continue further along the track (on foot) as it's part of the Corredor Verde until the track again becomes degraded (k) check here again for Little Bustard – also check the reedy channel for small herons. Keep scanning the skies in this area as local raptors (supplemented by those on passage) can be interesting. (If interested in exploring the old olive groves and fields around Cantarranas take the tracks west And then south in San Jose). Continue along the A 2225 for c2.5km beyond Los Badalejos (and c1 km south of the junction for the main Medina-Vejer road) to take the broad well maintained track (Caňada del Valcargo) which heads NE. It's worth checking the scrub along the Corredor Verde here, but the main target is Little
Bustard which inhabits the wide open flower rich fields (l) after c1 km (l) also check for Stone Curlew and Montagu's Harrier. This excellent track continues for another 9 km through varied habitats until a crossroads (just beyond a large agricultural shed) where it suddenly becomes more degraded. This track begs further exploration and is again a likely area for Spanish Imperial Eagle. (At the crossroads the track, probably undrivable, to the left apparently eventually comes out after c8km at the Ermita de los Santos near Alcala de los Gazules). Turning onto the A 396 towards Medina look out for two heavily restored ancient Roman bridges along the Corredor Verde on your right. These are worth a quick look in their own right so if you do so keep an eye out for Spanish Sparrow both in the farmlands and the tamasrisks plus Red-rumped Swallow and, when the river's low the odd passage wader (e.g. Common Sandpiper or Little-ringed Plover). The tamarisks may also hold Olivaceous Warbler. A few km further on turn towards Medina, but at the roundabout instead of driving up to the town (worth a visit for its breeding Lesser Kestrels!) turn towards the A381, but after just over 3 km take an acute turn to the right. Explore the rough track to your right just after the turn which takes you through rough scrub lined with cacti 'hedges'; I've yet to see anything of note here, but I've seen Rufous Bush Chat in similar habitat elsewhere. …. Further along the track you have excellent views across rough pasture (esp. to your right) where Calandra Larks are often abundant (although common this species can be elusive and this is my back-up location for finding them). I've also had Montagu's Harrier and Stone Curlew here and it may well sometimes hold Little Bustard. It was once possible to continue along the road to the distant ruined castle on the horizon, but this route has now been blocked by a large gate. Access: Like all tracks those here are subject to change and degradation, but are usually in good condition. Apart from the Corredor Verde (on which motorised traffic is not permitted), all seem to be public) and I have never had problems with access along other tracks (although I have been 'checked out' by locals several times). Those thinner ones on the map tend to be in less good condition and dubiously drivable. Access to the track from Los Badalejos requires some care as it is on a sharp bend.
SW 3 - ** Cantarranas Why visit? – A good evening site - Black-winged Kite regular and olive groves hold Rednecked Nightjar; outside chance of Little Bustard. é - viewing along tracks, but beware of ruts/mud in wet weather Cantarranas - this area of old olive groves and open farmland along the Benalup road near Cantarranas is my ‘standard’ stop in summer to get Red-necked Nightjar and Black-winged Kite as it is so convenient for both. Turn into the olive groves along a poor track (a) just after a sharp bend (or alternatively continue to Cantarranas and turn right then a long a marginally better track to the same point. The woods hold Hoopoe and Red-necked Nightjar - in summer an evening stop at the cross roads (b) virtually guarantees a good sighting, although both can also be seen flying over the A2228 here. According to locals Eagle Owl also occurs here. This point can also be reached from the A 396 via good farm tracks or from SW2 [via k on Map 29]. The open fields just beyond the woods (d) have Crested Lark, Calandra Lark, Stone Curlew, Montagu's Harrier. Black-winged Kite is often easy to see at dusk hunting over the farmlands at the top of the ridge (d) – in dozens of visits at dusk I have a 100% record of seeing it here. Little Bustard is also found here although they are difficult to locate (I have had more success with this species in the area described in the previous entry). Carefully driving along the farm tracks (f) to the vicinity of the open fields near the Jerez-Medina road are the best bet. The hilly outcrop here also has Eagle Owl, but is private although a footpath (e) runs up to its flanks.
Cantarranas - Take the Benalup road (A 2228) towards Vejer de la Frontera after c6km you pass a grand new house with a tower and then a small venta (both on your left). Shortly thereafter the road swings left and you take a gravel track on your right through the open olive groves. After 1km this takes you over a crossroads, on through open farmland and, eventually, to the main Vejer-Medina road. Alternatively continue into the Cantarranas taking the first right, then right again and finally right at fork (this takes you to the ‘crossroads’ noted above. Explore tracks at random! (This area can also be access off the A 396 Vejer – Medina road).
SW 4 - * Los Naveros- Conil area Why visit? – Migrant raptors, Montagu’s Harrier, Stone-curlew, Black-winged Kite etc; an outside chance of Little Bustard. é - viewing along tracks, but beware of ruts/mud in wet weather The area of open farmland to the east of the Jerez-Medina Sidonia road (A 396) is covered in SW3, but the area to the west, towards Los Naveros, is equally worth exploring. The dirt track to Conil (b), which turns off the CA 5201 about c4km from the junction with the A396, provides a superb drive through an attractive cross section of the farmland habitats in the area. It can equally well be driven from Exit 26 on the E5/A48 near Conil towards Los Naveros The area around the Los Naveros has Black-winged Kite, small woodlands nearby attract Rednecked Nightjar and the extensive cacti hedges around the village may atttract Rufous Bushchat. (Although I've yet to find them here, the habitat looks promising and the species is mentioned for this general area in ''Birds from the Coast of Trafalgar” - see introduction). Return to (b) to take the 10 km track passes through varied farmland. Montagu's Harrier, Blackwinged Kite, Stone Curlew and, with a lot of luck, Little Bustard can be found here. Calandra Lark also present and listen for Quail in spring. After c1 km a badly degraded dirt track heads off (c) southwards towards Los Paralejos – it's barely drivable in a 4x4 so is best tackled on foot. The marshy area and stream here sometimes has Bluethroat on passage. Further along this track you can gain good views over flat, open habitats, good for all 'steppe' species.
e track continues through open dhesa (d) which often has Hoopoe and Woodchat Shrike. More open areas, found as the track nears the Rio Salado, are worth stopping and scanning for Montagu's Harrier & other species. Nearer Conil the gravel track unexpectedly gives way to a stretch of degraded tarmac (bordered on one side by a metal crash barrier!) retch of degraded tarmac. The scrubby, bushy habitat here is particularly attractive and it can be a good spot to scan for raptors. Eventually the track, again rough gravel, drops down towards the A 48 with Conil beyond. Although other areas may harbour more birds, this drive across a selction of attractive habitats is a particular favourite. Although not as attractive for birds as other sites (e.g. Playa de los Lances) and often crowded with holiday makers in summer, several tidal lagoons (e) along the beach south of Conil can be worth checking for Kentish Plover, all the usual waders, gulls (inc. Audouin's) and terns. Collared Pratincoles hawk over the open fields which may also have Little Bustards. North of Conil is the small harbour of Puerto de Conil and above it a lighthouse at Cabo de Roche (f). Although perhaps a little too high, this can be good for seawatching in good to strong NW, W, SW and S onshore winds with Cory's & Balearic Shearwaters. Audouin's Gull, terns (Lesser Crested has been recorded), etc. Storm Petrels sometimes reach double figures and Wilson's has been recorded. Viewing is best in the morning. (see http://redavesmarinas.blogspot.co.uk/ for sample counts). The cliff top bushes here can hold migrants. There's also a sendero along the nearby creek (evidently home to some rare fish) (NB – be aware that the bulls here are ‘toros bravos’ – fighting bulls – and must be treated with respect and caution. Also be aware that heavy lorries from a nearby “quarry” come along this track at excessive speed). Access: Take the CA 5201 off the Vejer-Medina Sidonia road (A 396) towards Los Naveros (the southernmost one of two such roads). After c 4 km turn off along a good dirt track. This eventually leads to the motorway near Conil. If arriving via the E5/A48 take the southern most exit for Conil (N340), but head inland along this track. (see Map 31)
SW 5 - ** Cape Trafalgar & La Brena Pines nr. Vejer Why visit? – Seawatching & “visible migration” é - good access around the cape itself, but now no parking close at hand. seawatching is possible from the car in Conil. See Map 32 As the light favours seawatching in the morning , this description assumes an approach from Trafalgar, but should be intelligible if approaching from Barbate. Trafalgar - A very attractive site with a good chance of seabirds and, in season, excellent visible migration. In autumn/winter the tidal pools near the lighthouse are a very good site for Audouin's Gull. Visible migration in the autumn can be impressive with thousands of birds, some bouncing along at eye level, pass south. These include huge numbers of finches (Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Serin, etc), hirundines (Red-rumped Swallow, Crag Martin, etc), larks (inc Short-toed) and so on. (NB - unfortunately the prime conditions for passerine migration also attract bird trappers to the nearby wastelands). Particularly when winds are onshore during spring and autumn, Gannets, Cory's & Balearic Shearwater and a variety of terns are usually easy to see. Great Skua is often present on passage/winter. With stronger onshore winds more unusual seabirds may be possible – the lack of systematic seawatching here means little information is available. Note that mornings are better so that you can avoid looking into the setting sun. In spring birds such as Black Stork, Lesser Kestrel, Black Kite, etc. can be a surprise addition to a seawatch. Note that it is now not possible to park near the cape so you'll have to use the car park at the junction and walk c1 km to the sea. To the north you can also seawatch from your car along the beach at Conil (easy parking in off season) although the elevation is rather too low. You can also grab a quick coffee in the many beachside ventas. Further north again the cliffs north of Puerto de Conil offer terrific views and the cliff top can be good for migrants. La Brena Pines - Birdlife in these woods can be a little sparse (though good for Serin, Short-toed Treecreeper, etc) and, in season, migrants. In early spring the woods may have huge numbers of orchids (although a limited number of species are present including Woodcock, Bee, Sombre Bee and Mirror Orchid). Several well marked senderos (footpaths) and tracks snake inland through the woods and one footpath takes you to the cliffs (sadly no longer home to cliff nesting egrets). This description assumes an approach from Barbate, but should remain fairly intelligible if approaching from the opposite direction. The coastal road from Barbate to Canos de Mecca passes through the pinewoods of La Brena. The first stop in the woods (i) – on the left just under 2 km from Canos de Meca - can be particularly good for orchids in February. The next stop is the narrow tarmac road on the left c1 km further on towards Barbate is the tarmac road to Palomar de la Brena (j). There are many places to stop and the more open areas often have Hoopoe – if you brave a rough track you can make this a circular drive via San Ambrosio. There are some good vistas along this route where, during migration, many raptors can be seen. Another c1 km further west there's a small car park (k) on the coastal side of the road from which a footpath leads to the cliffs (Pallid Swift often hawk round the tower here). As the road descends towards Barbate look out for a car park on the right (after c2.5 km) which leads through open woodland which makes a pleasant walk. After another 800m you reach the coastal path below the cliffs back to Canos de Meca – check the White Broom here as it's a favoured spot for Chameleon. Access: Trafalgar - Head for Vejer and then to Los Canos de Meca. Turn right towards the lighthouse at Cape Trafalgar (signposted) and park in the official carpark to your right (2¤) from where it's c1.25 km to the cape. For leaflets on footpaths see – http://adsise.com/. Continue towards Barbate for La Brena. Barbate – once again head for Vejer, but take the N340/E5 turning off southwards on the A314. Look out for the turning to (a) just after 2 km from the turning.
SW 6 - ** Barbate Estuary Why visit? – Waders, gulls, terns etc é - some good tracks – paths not adequate
The Barbate area is home to the re-introduced Bald Ibis (see also SW 16). The pastures along the A 2231 coastal road towards Zahara (f) may have them, but, bizarrely, they also like feeding on the large golfing complex such as Montenmedio Golf Club (off the N340/E5). Unfortunately, due to a minority of birders who have disturbed golfers here, the club ask for visits only by prior arrangement. Three colonies have now been established and c20 pairs bred in the general area in 2014. Most of the area is part of the Parque Natrual La Brena y Marismas del Barbate. This estuary holds all the usual mix of waders and gulls, but apparently lacks some specialities (I’ve heard mixed messages about the current status of Lesser short-toed Lark here – it has bred, but its status seems a little uncertain). The river channel can be good for Caspian Tern. As with Bahia de Cadiz, there are several footpaths ("senderos") which allow access. A new leaflet ‘mapa guia ornotologico’ - is available from tourist offices in both Spanish and English (the Spanish version can be seen (and downloaded) from http://adsise.com. It is from this that the following routes have been described – note that I’ve not yet walked them so have not been able to confirm details. Those that have report that they've had to wade across some sections. Note also that these paths are very open and exposed in hot weather. Also note that the description of the route that follows assumes an approach from Vejer via Barbate, but shouldn't be hard to reinterpret if approaching from Zahara. i) Sendero Marisma Alta – at km 2.2 off the A 314 Vejer Barbate road – (a). This sendero is just over 15 km and better tackled by cycle (available for hire in Barbate I’m told) if you want to explore the whole route. It takes you along the Rio Barbate almost as far as the town. However, good birding can be had at the start of the sendero so there should be no need to walk too far. Pull off the A 314 onto a short dirt track to a small sewage farm and follow the path (signposted) to a series of shallow lagoons and flooded pastures border this path for c1 km. These pools hold Glossy Ibis, Blackwinged Stilt, Purple Gallinule and often attract a variety of waders (e.g. Green & Wood Sandpipers, Greenshank, Whimbrel, etc). Rarities are possible – a Lesser Yellowlegs was seen here in autumn 2012. However, recent 'improvements' to the sewage farm here appears to have reduced the available habitat. The sendero then divides with one fork following the edge of the basin and the other cutting off towards the river. A shorter ‘pan-handle’ route is possible.
The estuary is also accessible from the track (b) that runs through the pines just south of the petrol station as you come into Barbate. Turning left onto this track is not allowed so approach from the direction of Barbate (using the roundabout to change direction if coming from Vejer). Drive through the trees, turn right, then left and right again to continue along track and park under large eucalyptus trees. (Note – in autumn 2014 the police here warned birders that this area was prone to thefts from cars - so parking elsewhere may be safer). Follow the footpath that takes you along the main channel of the estuary – good for waders, gulls, etc. ii) Sendero “Antingua Salina” – just over the bridge on the A 2231 – (c). Take the A 2231 towards Zahara and pull over onto a track on the right c0.5 km beyond the bridge over the river. Walk back towards the river by taking a track through the rough ground to the south, then along river and then follow the path under the bridge towards the Salinas. Follow tracks as marked. (NB – try to avoid walking along the road which can be dangerously fast & busy) Follow the path along river – often better than the old Salinas which can be fairly birdless - which eventually loops back to the road off which you parked. Another 200m or so further on from here a track off to the left runs across the old salinas. After c660m this reaches a broad channel where you should be able to park. A rough track continues for another 500m along the channel (note leaflets show this as a circular route, but this doesn't seem to have been completed). Alternatively, view this wide channel from the track along the further edge of this wide channel (the track is just before Restaurante Las Dunas). This runs for c500m before you reach private working salinas iii) Senderos “El Cañillo & Las Albinas” – (d) & (e) on Map 32 Take the A 2231 towards Zahara and pull over onto a dirt track at Km 3.2 (i.e 2.5 km after crossing the bridge by an obvious noticeboard about the restoration of the marshes). The El Cañillo (d) section – after you avoid the badly rutted initial part of the track by swinging round behind nearby buildings - is a decent track easily drivable in a saloon car (2013). The wet muddy areas here can attract large flocks of gulls (inc. Audouin’s, Slenderbilled and Mediterranean) and all the usual waders. The Las Albinas walk starts at the end of this track (e) is on paths that head out into the marismas. This circular route runs for 10 km over the marshes back to where you started (assuming the footbridge over the channel shown on leaflets exists – check first!). Check here for Stone Curlew in September – 300+ have been seen here at this time! The bushes are also good for migrants. As may be expected the cover along the coast can be good for migrants. In common with Zahara de los Atunes further down the coast, the port of Barbate ( g) has strong links with the tuna fishing industry. There's a Natural Park information centre (open 09:00 – 15:00 Jan – March & 10-14;00 & 18:00 -20:00 the rest of the year) tucked away, unsignposted, inside to old docks (to the left of the last entrance as you head towards Canos de Meca). In the nearby marina there's also the Centro de Interpretation del Atun Rojo de Almadraba (open: 11:00 to 14:00 hours ,Thursday to Sunday) which has an exhibition on the old tuna fishing industry. Check here for trips out on old tuna fishing boats (see - www.atunalmadraba.com ) as, although aimed squarely at tourists, these trips may result in good views of Cory’s Shearwater and provide a good opportunity for a birder with family to get in some sneaky birding! For (h), (i), (j), (k) & (h) on map see ,SW 5 - Cape Trafalgar & La Brena Pines Note – some maps show a public road running from the coast east of Barbate back to the N340; in fact this is a military road and not open to the public. However it can be followed for c1.5 km to where it links with a track (signposted as an equestrian route) which heads back towards Vejer. Views of the estuary may be possible here and apparently there's a Collared Pratincole colony on this route, but it' probably not worth the detour. Access: Barbate is south of Vejer de la Frontera and adjacent to La Janda. The information centre just off the Benalup road has pamphlets with details of walking routes (in Spanish) around the estuary.
SW 7 - *** La Janda Why visit? – A ‘classic’ site – raptors, waders; passage – passerines; winter Bluethroat, etc; rarities é - good viewing along tracks This iconic site was once the largest, if very shallow, natural lake in Andalucia and rivalled the Coto Donaña in terms of rare and scarce species. Sadly, the wetland was drained and large wind farms have now been built south of Tahavilla and near Facinas. To the west lies the strictly provate Las Lomas estate (once the playground of field sports loving Spanish royalty). However, the estate has resisted the financial temptations of wind farms and much of the area is given over to rice paddies – an attractive habitat for wetland species. The rice fields are usually reflooded at the end of May. It is accessed off the A 2226 east of Benalup (a) and off the N340 opposite the turning for Zahara (g) and further west towards Vejer (i). It can also be reached via the track from Facinas, but this route really needs a 4x4. Much of the area is strictly private and most side tracks are designated private (‘camino particular’). Towards Tahivilla and again along the road to Zahara vast wind farms now mar the skyline – a development that may account for the increasing scarcity of Little Bustard in the area. Unfortunately, a project to ‘restore’ a small part of La Janda to its former glory seems permanently stalled. However, the dualling and ‘improvement’ of the N 340/E 5 here may provide a benefit since part of the plan may involve ‘restoring’ some wetlands along its route.
For descriptive reasons the following assumes entry via (a) –mainly because this is my usual entry point, but many observers arrive via (g) or (i). Take the concrete track that runs south off the A 2226 (the Benalup-Algeciras road - CA 212 on some maps) just east of Benalup on the road for Algeciras. (Previously very badly potholed, this road was repaired in 2015 and is now much easier to drive) Check the fields on the left as you drive along the track here as they sometimes hold Little Bustard. There are several points between (a) and (b) where a quick stop may be productive. About 2 km from the turning off the A 2226 you
cross a wide drainage channel which, to your right, a dirt track follows. This allows exploration of wet river margins that can be of interest. Another 2 km or so towards (b) and an old 'oxbow' appears to your right. When muddy this can be an excellent spot to stop and scan for waders (esp. if there's little suitable habitat along the main track across la Janda); during passage periods Wood, Green,and Common Sandpipers, Greenshank, Little Stint, etc. After c1 km rice fields appear on your right and after another 4 km you reach a bridge over a small stream (b) where a road branches off to follow a drainage channel up towards the Embalse de Celemin (k). This ditch can be good for Purple Gallinule and it’s often worth scanning here for raptors over the wooded hills. The other side of the bridge there’s a small marshy area that often has wintering Bluethroat. Just after the bridge the track heads towards Facinas (c); once in very poor condition this track was regraded and improved in 2011 and is now signposted (look for orange tipped finger posts). In summer check for Red-necked Nightjar here (and round the finca – see map). If you do take this track look out for Spanish Imperial Eagle and Long-legged Buzzard plus Little Bustard (Great Bustard is now extinct here). Young Bonelli’s Eagle can also be found here (and elsewhere) in autumn and winter. In summer 2012 the track was easily drivable until roughly opposite Tahavilla where several deep depressions required careful driving esp. when wet. The road is poor for c1 km until it reaches a bridge over a channel after which it improves again. The channel here can can be worth a closer scrutiny - Hoopoe are often found in this area and flocks of Corn Bunting can exceed 200 birds. In winter or after a wet spring you'll probably need a 4x4 to complete this route. If tackling it from Facinas take the first track on the left after leaving the N340. (now marked by a large signboard). Back at (b) an alternative (and easily drivable) route is to take the recently improved section of track up to a low ridge (d) and then on to La Janda. The ridge can be a good place to spot passing raptors. The track reaches a small farm where it drops down onto what was once the bed of a huge lake. A large sluice gate (e) marks another good place to stop – early in the mornings and again in the evening is a good time to look for Black-winged Kite (now a regular resident here and with up to 40 birds in winter) particularly on the irrigation superstructures. During migration periods the whole area can be alive with Back Kites, Montagu’s Harrier, etc. Beyond the sluice the track the track follows along besides a tree choked channel – now the site of a large heronry (mainly Little and Cattle Egrets plus a few Glossy Ibis). Stay in the car and remember your camera to grab some great shots of these attractive birds. (NB – this colony, although still present, seems to have reduced in size in spring 2015) The track then crosses a large irrigation ditch and by turning left you head along the main track across La Janda (f) and towards the exit opposite the A2227 to Zahara. Check the main ditch for Otters which are sometimes seen here (but don't confuse with Mongoose which also occurs) In season this track passes flooded rice paddies which attract large numbers of White Stork, Glossy Ibis, waders etc. and the ditches conceal Purple Gallinule, egrets and herons. Check sparrows here (as elsewhere) for Spanish Sparrow . Common Crane winter here and where the track (g) rises towards the N340 (E5) you gain an excellent view across the area – often useful for pinpointing flocks of this species. Also check the whole area, especially in winter, for Great White Egret. Tahavilla (h) on the N340 makes an excellent stop as the venta here, Venta Apolo XI, is first rate. A narrow road beside the venta loops round and back to the main road which allows you to scan this part of La Janda if you wish (impossible from the busy N 340). The “cemetery track” at the eastern edge of Tahavilla gives good views over farmland and was once particularly good for Little Bustard. Although the wind farm here seems to have displaced them, there continue to be occasional reports. Check for Montagu's Harrier. By turning right as you cross the bridge you head along the track (h) for a more northerly exit onto the N340. What species are present largely depends on the state of the rice paddies, but I this area holds all of the birds seen elsewhere. Check small Sylvia warblers here (and elsewhere) as Spectacled Warbler occur. On reaching the main road (i) check the ditch on the right which seems particularly attractive in autumn for migrating Bee-eaters. In the evening check the pylons here for Eagle Owl (esp late winter). Turn right towards Vejer you can pull off at a picnic site ( j)
which offers views across a different aspect of La Janda – I have seen both Crane and Black Stork here in winter. Access: From Benalup take the CA212 towards Los Barrios and turn at ( j). From the N340 take the track near the picnic site at ( d) or at the turning for Zahara at ( a). As noted above the tracks here can be in poor condition and most are ‘off limits’.
SW 8 - *** Bolonia – Sierra de la Plata Why visit? – Potentially all 5 European swifts, Rufous Bushchat , raptor migration; excellent tapas plus a splendid Roman ruins é - good viewing along road, but paths uneven/poor; steps down to Punta Carmarinal The Bolonia area has a good mix of birds since it is well positioned to attract migrants and has a good range of habitats including shoreline, woodland, old olive groves, scrub, poor agricultural land and rocky crags. It is also convenient for Tarifa, La Janda and Barbate which are all nearby. Not only that, but it is also on a migration route for raptors, is a well known site for both Little and Whiterumped Swift and Rufous Bushchat. The latter has declined sharply in southern Spain and can now be very hard to locate. Familiarising yourself with the song can help enormously. Exploring this area on foot made easier by a number good footpaths. I have not attempted to indicate them all on the map here but the local information centre (near La Pena on the Tarifa road has excellent leaflets and many are shown on notice boards. Many are detailed on an excellent new leaflet (see http://adsise.com/). The E5/N340 as you approach the turning for El Lentiscal/Bolonia can be very busy, but there are several places where you can pull off to explore the olive scrub along the road which sometimes holds Rufous Bushchat. Coming from the south, your first opportunity to explore the area is the road to Paloma (a) which is flanked by pines and dunes. Formerly military land it is now possible to drive to the end of the road, but parking becomes increasingly difficult. Look for migrants here and gulls on the beach. The river mouth can be worth investigating here and a footpath from the ancient necropolis offers good views across the area. The road from the A 340 up to Betis continues to flaunt signs claiming it to be a military area – if you're nervous drive in from the CA 2216 where there are no such signs! The bushy scrub along the A340 are said to harbour Rufous Bushchat (although they elude me here). Try pulling off at the Hotel San Juan de la Rivera (b) - a good stop for tapas & coffee - and exploring the nearby bushes. Alternatively, drive a little further along the main road to pull off at the picnic site (P) the right just before the road to Facinas. A track up to the wind generators opposite the turning for Facinas and
the Venta de Facinas (c) certainly sometimes has Rufous Bushchat. (Note this track is very rutted so park off the main road – not in the bus stop as this may incur a parking fine – and walk up). A further diversion nearby is the narrow road that turns off the road to Facinas and heads into the hills. I've had Tawny Pipit here and it may be worth further investigation. If you opt out of looking along the A 340 or a coffee, then take the winding road up towards the top of the hill “Puerto de Bolonia”. Just before you get there a road on the left turns up towards Betis (d) and the impressive craggy bulk of San Bartolome (420+ m). Take care along this road as it is narrow and twisting. Storks and raptors often circle over the rocky massif here. It's worth pulling off and exploring the scrub as this is a nother site where Rufous Bushchat has been reported. Many footpaths snake through the woods which during passage attract passerine migrants. (One path is called 'Sendero de Buho Real' – Eagle Owl footpath – given the disturbance from climbers this may be a little optimistic!).
At Puerto de Bolonia (e) – where the CA 322I6 reaches the top of the hill - there’s an ‘official’ raptor watchpoint. In stronger easterly winds, there can be a good passage of raptors (Black Kite, Booted & Shorttoed Eagle, Honey Buzzard, Griffon Vulture, etc.) and storks. Swifts (Common, Pallid & Alpine) and hirundines also hawk along this ridge. The track running north along the ridge is worth exploring for birds such as Tawny Pipit, Blackeared Wheatear and Rufous Bushchat. One leaflet shows a sendero (footpath) branches off this track which loops round back to the road which would give good access to the habitat – but note that the leaflet also warns you to check locally to see if this route is open. Two roads run SE from here – one to Betis and another to El Chaparral. The small beach resort of El Lentiscal (Bolonia) offers a variety of fast food outlets and bars – from many of which raptor migration or seabird passage (Cory’s and Balearic Shearwaters, Gannets, etc) can be watched in comfort (f). Footpaths also fan out along the coast and may repay investigation. A small stream flows into the sea here and the scrub along its banks can be worth a careful look as can the muddy foreshore (e.g. for Kentish Plover). Entry into the Roman ruins of Baelo Claudia is free for EU passport holders and even if you have no interest in history it's a good diversion since the grounds have obliging Black-eared Wheatear, Sardinian Warbler and Stonechat. Once again look out for Rufous Bushchat along this road, but also check any low flying swifts with care ….. Continuing along the road up towards the sierra you pass a track on your right which links to a footpath (see map) which probably deserves further investigation. Most birdwatchers tend to ignore all diversions up to the well known 'swift cave', but a concrete track (g) takes you up to some footpaths allowing you to explore the Sierra de la Plata. This concrete track continues into the sierra for over 3km (although it seems further!) and then for almost another km as a gravel track. It then swings left (just before a small farmyard) as a rutted dirt track for abother 200m or so to a hide (Laja de la Zarga). This hide faces towards a vast rock wall which has breeding Griffon and Egyptian Vultures and Bonelli's Eagle is regular here. Another variation is the take the footpath from a lay-by (just short of the sharp bend on this road) walk down to Punta Carmarinal (h). From the lighthouse you may pick up Audouin’s Gull, Cory’s & Balearic Shearwater). The lighthouse can be approached from Zahara de los Attunes through the plush residential area of Atlanterra (the road from Bolonia does not connect with this area). Note that the route round by car to this point via Zahara and Atlanterra takes roughly the same amount of time as it does to walk back up to the Bolonia road from the lighthouse. Continuing up the road you reach the rocky peaks of the Sierra de la Plata. Here you have not only have superb views across to Africa, but a chance of all 5 species of European swift. Pull off into a small lay-by opposite a craggy cliff face pierced by a small cave - Cueva del Moro (i). This is a classic site for White-rumped Swift and, in recent years, Little Swift (although the latter is much easier in the Chipiona area). Mornings and late evenings are usually best for these rare swifts, but the truth is that they can be very elusive and you need luck to get them on your first visit. (That said, some people have seen them easily here as well along the small stream the discharges into the bay). However, your wait can be enlivened by Egyptian Vulture, Griffon Vulture (which nest on the
rock face above the road), Crag Martin, Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting, Golden Oriole and, in season, passing raptors (Lanner have been seen here). Further up the road the woods can be worth investigating for butterflies (e.g. Two-tailed Pasha). Note too that in easterly winds this can be a good vantage point for raptor watching (both Lanner and Long-legged Buzzard have been reported here). Driving round to Zahara de los Atunes/Atlanterra takes you past an entrance to La Janda and great swathes of wind generators. The broad valley as you approach Zahara was once a very reliable site for Little Bustard, but since the wind farm appeared they seem to have declined sharply. However, birds were recently seen near El Armarchal (j) so it's still worth checking Zahara de los Atunes is another 'classic' site for White-rumped Swift – with birds sometimes seen over the river here or the middle of Zahara. However, your best bet is to drive into Atlanterra (k). Conveniently, a new road bypasses Zahara, but not the ugly sprawl of hotels at the start of Atlanterra. Continue along the coast and then park in a small car park on the left (about 250m after the last large hotel complex). The swifts can be seen from here, but for better views climb up the steep road past palatial holiday homes until you overlook a rocky crag and have panoramic views over Zahara. However they can be elusive (in May 2009 I had fantastic views here, but less than a week later friends looking in similar conditions and at the same time of day saw nothing. Access: As noted above some of the roads have old signs warning that they are restricted military roads – this can safely be ignored when driving up to ( i) as this route clearly has ‘touristy’ car parks & notices. I The same now appears to apply to the area around Not all footpaths appear to be open see leaflet http://adsise.com/.
SW 9 - ** Tarifa Area For migration watchpoints (other than Playa de los Lances & La Pena) see also SW8 & SW 10 Note that many of the roads and tracks in the area are still signposted as restricted military route. For most this is no longer the case, but exercise caution.
SW 9.1 - * Tarifa Town & Whale Watching Trips Why visit? – The starting point for whale watching trips; migrants, R & R é - good, but check with boat operators regarding access to whale watching trips
Tarifa is a pleasant town to wander round and get refreshments, but commercially, and to the disadvantage of conservation, it is dominated by kite/wind surfers. However, given its location birds often stream over during migration periods - all raptors, swifts (many of which are Pallid, but there
are occasional reports of Little), all species of hirundine, Bee-eaters and even such delights as Roller! Unfortunately, the Isla de Tarifa is still considered by the authorities to be 'strategically important', and so remains 'out of bounds'. However, seabirds (mainly terns) can be seen from the narrow causeway linking the island to the mainland and from the far end of the harbour wall (by the statue of Guzman el Bueno). The 2 nd & 3rd weeks of May after strong easterly winds, is the best time for Lesser Crested Tern for which this is the best site in Europe (see Birding World Vol 17 No3 p129). The coastal walk east towards Guadalmesi may also offer opportunities for seawatching (Audouin’s and Cory’s and Balearic Shearwaters can pass close to the shore) This ‘sendero’ runs from just east of the harbour along the coast to Guadalmesi. It has untapped potential for migrant passerines to judge from the number of migrating Monarch butterflies noted here. Whale watching trips out of Tarifa are well worth the expense for good views of cetaceans (Longfinned Pilot Whale, Common and Bottle-nosed Dolphin are virtually guaranteed whilst the fortunate may encounter Sperm and Fin Whale. There are also special trips to see the sharply declining population of Orcas. The latter are arguably better for seabirds as better as they venture further out into the Atlantic side of the straits. However, sightings of Cory's and Balearic Shearwater and Great Skuas are also highly likely on the ‘standard’ trips. The potential for organised ‘chumming’ pelagics here does not seem to have been explored – but small groups of Wilson’s Petrel were was seen in 2011 on a specially chartered birding trip here and it has been suggested that Bulwer’s Petrel and Little (Macronesian) Shearwater may be more frequent that the very few records indicate. For larger groups (12+), it may be possible to hire a boat you’re your exclusive use. There are several whale watching companies, but I have found Turmares (www.turmares.com) to be the best. Access: Follow the signs! Note that parking in Tarifa can be difficult in mid-summer.
SW 9.2 - ** Playa de los Lances Tarifa
Why visit? – The premier site for Lesser Crested Tern also Audouin’s Gull, waders,migrants, etc - generally good access along boardwalk (but this has been damaged by high tides in the past)
This is a great site marred by excessive disturbance from walkers (with or without a dog), horse riders and, above all, kite flyers (both conventional and surfing). Despite numerous signs banning all these activities, the lagoon in front of the hide is regularly disturbed with kite surfers often using it as a ‘nursery slope’ for beginners. (In 2013 hundreds of posts were rammed into the sand here to prevent this abuse, but within days most were removed by vandals). Although a designated reserve the local authority clearly doesn’t want to threaten the golden goose that is kite surfing whilst the kite surfers pay no regard to conservation issues! However, on very calm days, exceptionally windy ones or early in the morning when the birds are undisturbed, it can be excellent for waders. Grey and Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Sanderling and Knot are often present even in June and Kentish Plover breed. If undisturbed gulls roost on the beach and a close look usually reveals a number of Audouin’s Gull, Hidden amongst the Little, Sandwich and Common Terns there may be the occasional Lesser Crested Tern for which this is, arguably the best site in Europe. During migration periods a steady stream of raptors may be passing overhead (Honey Buzzard, Black Kite, Booted Eagle, etc). Similarly a constant stream of hirundines, swifts, Bee-eaters, etc. pass low over the beach. The rough ground may conceal Tawny Pipit, Short-toed Lark, etc. Along the coast towards Bolonia, car parks surrounded by dunes may have numerous passerine migrants.
Note: In August this road can get very busy and if your timing’s wrong you can get held up by traffic jams.
Access: Playa de los Lances is accessed through a new housing estate near the football ground from the northern end of Tarifa just before you join the E5/A340. Alternatively, as you come from Vejer pull off the road on the right (& next to rubbish bins!) just short of the petrol station (which is on the left). For leaflets on footpaths see - http://adsise.com/.
SW 9.3 - ** La Pena Area Why visit? – Raptor migration – plus a chance of ‘extras’ such as Ruppell’s Vulture & Eagle Owl é - good viewing along track/roads The woods that flank the beach along the road here (a) may hold migrants (see Map 35 for this and other locations). As you reach the bulk of the Sierra de Enmedio (coming from Tarifa) turn off to the right (north) onto a minor road which passes the Colectivo Ornitológico Cigüeña Negra (“Cocn”) information centre and into the hills. This track is a good site for raptors which is augmented by a semi-official feeding station for vultures. About a kilometre along the road is a concrete raptor watchpoint (b) - these structures are dotted along the coast at all official watchpoints (e.g. Puerto de Bolonia) which makes a good viewpoint. On the left just beyond this point are some crags where Eagle Owl have been seen in recent years. This was once a site for Rufous Bushchat but staff at “Cocn” office tell me that they no longer do so. A little further on along the N340 turn off right (from the south) for ther Visitors’ Centre for the Parque del Estrecho (c) just NW of the tower of La Pena. This centre is worth visiting for leaflets & information about walking routes. There's also a short sendero from here that makes a pleasant walk. Access – turn east off the N-340 at 76.5 km)
SW 9.4 - ** Santuario de la Luz Tarifa Why visit?
– Raptor & general migration – plus a chance of ‘extras’ such as Ruppell’s Vulture & Rufous Bushchat. é - good viewing along roads; fair paths around the santuario If you approach from the south (i.e. off the N340 Vejer-Tarifa road) scan the fields along the first part of the route carefully as Little Bustard have been reported here. Check all larks carefully as both Crested and Thekla occur. The cactus ‘hedgerow’ here is also reputed to hold, or rather conceal, Rufous Bushchat (I’ve yet to find them here, but others have done so). The rocky slopes in the distance to the west behind Tarifa hold the area’s few remaining Black Wheatear. The hills can be explored via the tracks off this road but a 4x4 is needed. The santuario is a small ecclesiastical building surrounded by trees (often a welcome oasis of shade and where you can enjoy an ice-cream from the kiosk in its grounds). Naturally the cover attracts migrants (e.g. Golden Oriole, Pied Flycatcher, Redstart, etc), but it can be busy with picnickers at weekends. The scrub nearby is also another reputed location for Rufous Bushchat although in my experience you’re more likely to see little more than Woodchat Shrike. During migration periods raptors often funnel along this valley so watching from the shade of the santuario, although it limits your view, can be good. Vultures often seen spiralling down towards the watchpoint noted under SW9 – I caught up with my first Ruppell’s here so I like the place! Further along the road towards the Ojen valley it becomes more rugged, but there are a number of tracks that could be explored on foot. When you reach the road near Facinas you can either go left for Bolonia (SW8), or La Janda (SW7) or right for the Ojen valley (SW14); both options are worth while. Access: Turn north off the N 340/E 5 at 78.5km by prominent white ‘gateposts’. Alternatively, if approaching from the Facinas – Ojen valley road turn south onto the road signposted for the Santuario.
SW 10 Migration Watchpoints (N 340/E 5 Tarifa – Algeciras road). Why visit? – Stunning raptor passage – one of the great ornithological spectacles of Europe. é - some viewpoints have poor access but anywhere you can pull off may produce good views of raptors
See also:Introduction for chart on raptor migration. Sites SW8, SW 9.2 & SW 9.3 for migration during easterly winds & in westerlies E9 El Higueron & G1 -Gibraltar ▪ Check -‘Foundacion Migres' (www.fondacionmigres.org) website (if reactivated) for information on this area & raptor migration (in Spanish)
In recent years a series of watchpoints under the aegis of the ‘Migres’ programme have been establish long the Straits (although the current economic crisis has slashed support for this organisation with an inevitable impact on its activities). Those watchpoints along the N340 are best treated as a single linear site (those to the west of Tarifa - Bolonia, La Pena and Playa de los Lances - and to the east – Puntas Camero & Secreta, near Algeciras - have been treated separately). Each site has its own character and idiosyncrasies. Two major factors need to be considered when using and visiting these sites. The first is wind direction – broadly, in easterlies head for sites to the west and around Tarifa and in westerlies head for sites nearer Algeciras. The second consideration is whether sites are north or south of the N340. If north they can usually only be accessed safely if travelling from the direction of Algeciras and if south then arriving from Tarifa is better (see individual sites for details). This is because the N340 is extremely busy with few places where you can safely change direction (El Pelayo is one).
The site list that follows is not exhaustive since anywhere you can pull off the road safely has great potential. Also, as the military grip on the area (which, ironically, has protected the landscape) weakens more good sites are likely to become available. The following sites are the most well known and well watched sites. Sites accessed from the direction of Algeciras are: El Algarrobo (99.1 km), Puerto del Bujeo (95 km) and El Cabrito (90.7 km) and Cazalla N340 (87 km – but see also below) Sites accessed from the direction of Tarifa are: Trafico (85km), Cazalla (87 km) Guadalmesi (89.5 km) and Mirador del Estrecho (well signposted), The situation at Cazalla (87 km) is problematical. In 2007 after much expense a swish purpose built centre, with space for displays and refreshments, was built at the watchpoint to the north of the road (i.e. to be approached from Algeciras direction).
However, this has since stood empty allegedly due to a variety of problems – depending on who you talk to it's delayed by difficulties in the putting in water and electricity supply (despite an electricity pylon standing next to the site), concerns about the ‘dangerous’ access (raised only after it was built) and a lack of finance to man the centre. Local birders tell me that the real problem is 'political'. The situation seems to vary year by year – sometimes people pulling off onto the track up to the vacant centre have found it blocked and have been ‘moved on’ by the police, but at other times crowds of birders have been free to access the site. Check locally for the current situation. A rough track and simple shelter on the southern side of the N340 (i.e. to be access from Tarifa) now constitutes an alternative to this watchpoint. Crossing the road here on foot certainly is dangerous and not recommended. Naturally, this may quickly change if the farcical situation is resolved.For those staying in Tarifa without transport, Trafico, is the best option since you can now walk to the site using the newly reopened coastal footpath and local tracks. In 2011 plans were announced to build a new Migres study centre in the old military installations below Trafico and much work has been carried out, but at the time of writing (Autumn 2015) history seems to be repeating itself and its completion appears to have been delayed. If and when it opens it should revolutionise raptor watching here. The withdrawl of the military along this coast means that many 'restricted' areas and roads are now becoming accessible. It will remain to be seen whether the de facto protection of this area that the military provided will be continued.
Raptor watching is usually best from c10:00 to 13:00 and again, to a lesser degree,16:00 – 18:00 . However, at peak migration times birds will be present throughout the day and rarer species don’t necessarily appear at peak times. Migres staff believe that 90% of migrant raptors are reported if Cazalla and El Algarrobo are systematically watched. Hence it is here that efforts tend to be concentrated. However, anywhere along the N340 where you can pull off safely (even miniconurbations at El Pelayo and El Cuarton) can turn up the birds. Numbers day-to-day can vary enormously according to the weather. In the right conditions these sites can host many thousands of raptors (e.g. 10,687 Honey Buzzards over Algarrobo 1st Sept 2012, 1,223 Short-toed Eagle over Algorrabo on 21st September (see www.trektellen.nl for details). REMEMBER – a) - if raptor watching for extended period in a hot and/or exposed site make sure you drink plenty of water. b) - take a folding chair – being comfortable helps you focus! c) - use the exact km markers to warn you of the approach of the turning so you can signal in plenty of time – several turnings are very sharp so take care.
some viewpoints have poor access but where ever you can pull off may produce good raptor passage.
SW 10.1 - *** Trafico/Punta Camorro
(access from direction of Tarifa at 85 km post)
Why visit? – Whilst not as convenient for estimating numbers, migrating raptors often tend to come lower and closer at this site. é - generally good (short track up to viewpoint very uneven) This raptor watching site is 2 km nearer Tarifa and across the road from Cazalla hence it is a good option when driving from Tarifa and if staying there without a car. Personally, this is my favourite site – it appears to be much better for getting really close views of raptors. All the species as noted elsewhere can be seen here. The valley and riverine scrub here is a perfect “migrant trap” and recently made more accessible now that the military have withdrawn from the area. As noted under the introduction to the area (SW10) 'Migres' plan to build a education/research centre in one of the decommissioned coastal batteries (an anachronistic legacy since they were built!) The coastal path immediately to the south (accessed via Tarifa town) alleviates previous access problems along this coast although stretches are rather open with little shade. Just beside a large and obvious white villa there's a track next to which there's simple structure to provide shade at this watchpoint (a). Continuing towards the coast you reach the now defunct military checkpoint (now a new Migres study centre) just before which there's a rough track (b) leading towards a handful of small cottages. This area can be alive with small passerines – dozens of Pied and Spotted Flycatchers may be present in spring for example. Since spring 2013 Common Babblers have been resident in the area. This track links to the coastal footpath. Continuing along the
road through the old checkpoint, you reach another simple shelter for raptor watching and are treated to a splendid view across the Strait. In addition to migrants raptors, check the scrub for Wryneck and passerines (Mousier's Redstart has been found here in the past). The hillside drops down to the coastal path (c) and, although not an ideal location, seawatching can pick up the usual variety of shearwaters, gulls, etc. This path makes a good route to and from Tarifa (see SW 9). A purpose built study centre, with accommodation, has been built here for Migres (open autumn 2014) with the purpose of studying migration. This should be a source of information and will increase the knowledge of this area. Unfortunately Tarifa island (Isla de las Palomas), an ideal location for seawatching, is only open to birdwatchers by arrangement via the Natural Park, but, unless you have a good command of Spanish and knowledge of local bureaucracy, it's easier to contact a professional guide (I recommend Javi Elorriaga (firstname.lastname@example.org) to sort out the paperwork. Access – access from Tarifa turn off the N-340 south towards the sea at 85 km marker- ignore signs warning that this is military land since you are now permitted to use the road. Continue down the twisting track over a bridge and uphill until you reach the brow of the hill where you park (a - c 1.25 km from the main road) or continue twoards coast for (b) & (c)
SW 10.2 - *** Cazalla (access from 87 km post – see below) Why visit? – Usually staffed by ‘Migres’ staff & hence well watched; Ruppell’s Vulture daily in the autumn and in recent years home to a Long-legged Buzzard. é - excellent if the access from direction of Algeciras is open; the alternative (from Tarifa) is up a short, but steep poorly maintained track surface rough for wheelchairs. The classic, and well watched, raptor watching point where huge flocks of Black Kites, Honey Buzzards, Griffon Vultures and White Stork can be seen plus a good sprinkling of various eagles and falcons (inc. Eleonora’s if lucky). A Long-legged Buzzard has favoured this area for several years. Ruppell’s Vulture seen daily in the autumn – probably reflecting the intense coverage rather than an actual preference for the spot. It is best in easterly winds. All regular raptors can be seen here and it has a good record for rarer species. Until recent economic constraints this centre was manned by ‘Migres’ volunteers (mainly Spaniards but also English speaking Scandinavians), but it still attracts many local abd not so local enthusiasts who provide many eyes. Here you may be able to find out about current movements/numbers. A whiteboard with the latest counts/information is sometimes displayed here. At long last the access to the purpose built centre (constructed on the north side of the N 340 so approached from Algeciras) has been resolved by the construction of a new tarmac access road (winter 2015/2016). As yet the buildings have not come into use, but this development gives cause for optimism. This makes this option much more attractive than the 'primitive' alternative across the road (although this will remain to have the advantage of being accessed via Tarifa). Access – if accessing to the purpose built centre (a large white building on a hill besides to the road) then approach from Algeciras taking the new slip road (which should be signposted) If arriving from Tarifa turn south off the N-340 at 87 km post. up a rough track.
SW 10.3 - ** Guadalmesi (access from direction of Tarifa at 89.5 km ) Why visit? – All the usual raptors, plus small migrants plus stunning views of from the shoreline. é - see below
Access to this area currently seems in doubt. In recent years the route through the moribund military base seemed to be used by all, but from 2016 onwards the military has cracked down on access. They not only appear to have started to stop cars using the whole road and escorting them back to the N 340, but also preventing pedestrian access along the road and then the
waymarked sendero (footpath) that follows a rough track that skirts the base. Hence the only legitimate route may now be along the coastal footpath between Tarifa and Punta Secreta (Algeciras). Things may change so I leave the account here but suggest you check locally and warn against using the route without checking locally for the latest information regarding access. Turn off the main N-340/E 5 onto military road No4 (only safely done as you approach from Tarifa). Once at the coast the road skirts along the coast to the small settlement of Guadalmesi where there is an old watch tower, a migration watchpoint and a small stream disgorging into the sea. The scrub here (and along the coast) may attract small migrant passerines. Monarch butterflies also occur. The views of Africa here get gradually more and more stupendous. Good for small migrants and excellent for Monarch butterflies. Even if birds are few in number, this walk is worth it for the views. In 2008 the area north of the tower held a couple of (elusive) Longlegged Buzzards. A newly refurbished and signposted sendero runs for 11km along the coast to Guadalmesi from Tarifa – should be superb when there are falls of small birds as well as being below a major raptor migration route. However, you will have to walk back along the coast, up to the N 340/E 5 to catch a local bus or all the way to Punta Secreta in the east. Parts of this walk are shaded, but for the most part this area is open with only small bushes so take precautions against heatstroke. Access – approach from Tarifa turn south off the N-340/E 5 turn at 89.5 km
SW 10.4 - * El Cabrito (access from direction of Algeciras
at 90.7 km)
Why visit? – All the usual raptors; possibility of exploring the rocky interior. é - easy access by car Noisy wind generators nearby and a lack of shade makes this a not entirely attractive proposition as a stop. However, the track here (which I've not explored) heads into the rocky hills for several kilometres so may offer a slim chance of Black Wheatear a handful of which may still remain in the area. Despite being somewhat wind-blown, passerine migrants, exhausted Hoopoes, etc. can find shelter in what little cover is available. Access – Approach from Algeciras - turn north off the N-340/E5 at 90.7 km – Pista de la Ahumad
SW 10.5 - ** Mirador del Estrecho (access from direction of Tarifa) Why visit? – Although often overrun with tourists, the mirador remains is a good place to for refreshments é - good A great place to stop to get those inevitable snaps across to Africa. The refreshments are ‘bog standard’ fare, but where else can you munch a ‘bocadillo’ whilst viewing such fantastic raptor passage? You have a chance to see all the raptors to be found at other sites. Be prepared, though, to field questions from curious tourists – your chance to do some PR for birding. Access – tapproach from Tarifa - the mirador is well sign posted south off the N-340/E5 not far east of El Cabrito. You cannot turn off left here as you approaching from Albeciras so overshoot (c120m) turn up a dirt track to turn round. The mirador is also a spot where you can legally change direction'
SW 10.6 - * El Cuarton (access from direction of Why visit? – Good views of raptors plus views over the strait. é - good
Until recently the road which runs up to the TV masts above El Cuarton was closed to general traffic, but according to the booklet 'Birds from the Coast of Trafalgar' it is now open allowing visitors to drive c7km into the hills and c800m above the straits. The birds to be seen here are much the same as those to be found at other watch points. However, when I have looked in summer the gate has been locked & the track closed – apparently due to the risk of fire. Despite the booklet, it may be more prudent to park before the gate and walk up even if the gate is open. Access – Arriving from Algeciras you turn inland just after a petrol station at Km 93.2 (arriving from Tarifa it would be dangerous to turn left here across the traffic, but you should be able to turn right into El Cuarton and then cross the road). Continue up a well made road, past a collection of white buildings on a sharp right hand bend, round a second still sharper left, past two roads on the left and then right at a crossroads. Follow this upwards to the barrier which may or may not be open to traffic (see above) and then into the hills. After c2.5km the tarmac road swings sharp left, but you go right to take the second track on the right which takes you further uphill following a valley until you reach the summit.
SW 10.7 - ** Puerto del Bujeo (access from direction of Algeciras at 95 km). Why visit? – All the usual raptors; plus a good walk along a wooded ‘canuto’ & possibly further inland. é - good; path inaccessible but good gravel track If you want to combine raptor watching with a good walk then try this site. Approach from Algeciras (the only safe and legal way to get on the track!), but it’s still a tight right turn so take care (exiting also needs caution). Drive up a steep gravel track (easily missed as it's just over the brow of the hill) and park beneath trees c30m from the main road. This site has more cover than some of the alternatives so can attract migrants (e.g. Pied & Spotted Flycatchers, Whitethroats, etc), but also has a resident population of Cirl & Rock Buntings, etc. A walk along narrow steep sided wooded valley (= canuto) is botanically interesting; it also provided shelter for migrants. This is a pleasant circular walk (returning along the forest track) with some much needed shelter. Amongst the Mediterranean exotica in autumn/winter Siskin can come as a bit of a surprise! Tracks running up the hill from the parking place cross the Sierra de Bujeo to reach, in theory, the distant outer suburbs of Algeciras. In the process stunning views across the straits can be gained. I’ve never risked it as, when I checked, the road was in dreadful condition. Access – turn north off the N-340/E5 at km95
SW 10.8 - ** Huerte Grande (access from direction of Tarifa
95 km;see also below).
Why visit? – An excellent new education centre, well wooded grounds and convenient chalets (with café). é - centre and garden accessible This is another site with a good amount of cover and hence attractive to migrants. A footpath (Cerro del Tambor) along a well marked track runs south-east and then south-west from here for 5km to reach an old bunker (returning by the same route) and the coast. Once again this provides superb views and the woodland along the route can attract all the usual migrants, but on the downside it passes through a wind farm. This route takes you to, or very near, the La Hoya watchpoint mentioned in some texts. It should be possible continue along the track here to Guadalmesi (2 km?). Although signposted as a restricted military road for 'authorised vehicles only' it appears to be used without let or hindrance by all manner of drivers. Naturally, views across to Africa are stupendous. A new education centre has recently opened here and has some excellent displays (in Spanish) on the straits and migration. As noted in the introduction there is accommodation (in the form of chalets) at Huerte Grande (see www.osmundasur.es) where there is also a small venta. In previous years Long-legged Buzzard have lingered in this area. Both Two-tailed Pasha and Monarch butterflies
occur. The owners of the venta/holiday accommodation here (who speak fluent English) are very helpful and keen to encourage birdwatching in the area. They have organised several Birdwatching Fairs here in recent years so it's worth contacting them particularly if one is being run when you visit (see – http://www.huertagrande.com/english.html). Access – turn south off the N-340/E5 at km 97 (from Tarifa) or access via El Pelayo (km 97 from Algeciras
SW 10.9 - *** El Algarrobo
(access from direction of Algeciras at 99.1 km).
Why visit? – Usually staffed by ‘Migres’ staff & hence well watched; Ruppell’s Vulture daily in the autumn. é - very poor track up to viewpoint makes access difficult This site is, with Cazalla, the most important raptor watching site in the area and is particularly good in periods of westerly easterly winds y winds in autumn. Take great care turning off (and onto) the main road – there is a ‘crawler’ lane - but some motorists still like to tailgate you even when you have indicated your intention to turn right well in advance. Look out for a series of tall white poles in the field to your right – the turning is a short distance further on next to a 80 kph sign. The track is at a right angle to the main road so you need to take it carefully. If someone's turning out of the turning you may have to continue along the main road. (If possible look at 'GoogleEarth to familiarise yourself with this tricky turning). The track continues to be in very poor condition although local politicians have promised to improve access..... As the last stretch is the worst, you may wish to park just beyond the wire 'gate' and fence near the road and walk up to the official ‘observatorio’ (watchpoint). ’ which is only 30-40m further along the track. Along with Cazalla, this is the main ‘Migres’ watchpoint and is accordingly usually staffed by volunteers. Ruppell’s Vulture are also regularly reported here along with all the usual species. If coming from Tarifa it’s only 2.5 km further on to a roundabout where you can conveniently reverse direction. Note - An alternative, if arriving from the west, is to pull off to the right on to an access road to two obvious radio masts at (Km 99), but make sure you're parked off the tarmac to avoid a fine.. This site is Marchenilla which has a similar track record for interesting birds as El Algarrobo which is hardly surprising as they are opposite one another (although you will find fewer eyes to help you search). Another alternative, as you come from Algerciras, is to take the minor turning on the right (c1km uphill beyond Venta Jose Mari) through a small industrial estate upwards towards a small settlement. Pull off near the Villa Margarita for views across towards El Algarrobo or continue upwards taking the next left to access a footpath linking to a track (Senda de los Prisioneros) that takes you still higher. This track can also be accessed via the Rio de la Miel sendero (El Cobre) which is itself also worth investigating as it has Iberian Chiffchaff and is good for plants being a classic 'canuto') Both sites have the disadvantage that you do not have the advantage of many fellow observers searching for birds. Access – turn off the N-340/E5 turn at 99.1 km Pista a Huerta Serafin
SW 11 - ** Puntas Carnero & Secreta (See map 37) Why visit? – An excellent watchpoint for raptors (esp. in spring) with the added bonus of seabirds é - good viewing along road – but parking limited at Carnero A good site for both raptors and seabirds (but note that, unlike sites along the Atlantic coast, this one faces east/south-east so seawatching in the morning can be difficult). There is limited parking. Be aware that if you park on the lighthouse road at Punta Carnero it can be tight to turn round. However, it's well worth stopping as raptors pass very low at this point in the spring (esp. over the nearby ridge to the west) and hence is often populated by bird photographers. (Europe's first Batleur Eagle was found here).
There is more parking on the ‘seafront’ in the “Urbanisation de Punta Carnero” (confusingly nearer Punta Secreta) although it's a 500-700m uphill walk back to the lighthouse. Seawatching can produce numerous Gannets, Great Skua, Audouin’s Gull, Cory’s and Balearic Shearwater (plus Yelkouan?). In strong westerlies in spring birds of prey may come in very low (again, all expected birds can be seen). Excellent views across to Gibraltar. The low scrub and stream near Getares may be worth a second glance for migrants. Similarly the walk westwards to Torre de l Fraille can muster more than the usual number of migrant passerines. Note that at weekends and during the holiday period, traffic jams can build up with the junction with the N 340/E 5. Access – turn off the N-340/E5 onto the CA-223 towards Getares – after c1 km go right at the roundabout on the edge of Getares continue & park near lighthouse or go further on to park in the small hamlet at the end of the road. (Note – parked cars can make it difficult to turn round on the lighthouse road)
SW 12 - * Palmones Estuary Why visit? – A small estuary for a good selection of waders, gulls & terns plus passing migrant raptors & storks. é - good viewing from Palmones village; poor from Rinconcillo The estuary here can be viewed from the north from Palmones village and the south from El Rinconcillo, a suburb of Algeciras. Palmones is the easier to access and is a good stop if you have to do some shopping at nearby supermarkets off the E15/N340 south of Los Barrios. The promenade (a) here allows a good view over the marsh and the opportunity to enjoy a coffee or snack in pleasant surroundings. White Storks and a good variety of waders (Whimbrel, Curlew, 'shanks, etc) can be seen here as can Caspian Tern. Naturally, it also has passing raptors and storks during passage.
The Algeciras side of the estuary – El Rinconcillo - has a view point (b), board walk, rough ground and a small wet dune slack (c) which can hold Penduline Tit and Bluethroat in winter. Once again it offers good views of waders, gulls & terns. However, the area can become quite disturbed since this is a popular spot for wind surfing (d). The saltmarsh and rough grazing (e) can hold large numbers of storks.
Access: i) For Palomones village on leaving the A 381 head left towards Malaga then exit right at the first junction off the E5/N340 and follow signs to the village - there’s a large car park as you enter the village ii) For El Rinconcillo head right towards Algeciras and come of right immediately after the bridge over the river at Exit 109. Take the second exit at the roundabout to pass back under the E5/N340 and then at the next roundabout take the first exit. At a T-junction go right (Avenida del Embarcadero) and almost at once turn left (into Calle del Flamenco). Go straight over the first crossroads, but turn left at the second (into Calle Camino la Mediana). Carry straight on (it becomes a track) to the Parque Municipal de Marismas OR turn last right into Calle Cabo Ajo, then first left (into Calle Cabo Finisterre) and then follow until you reach the sea.
SW 13 – ** Southern Alcornocales Why visit? – Some great walks in typical woodland habitat; Iberian Chiffchaff, etc. é - good viewing along road and tracks but most footpaths not adequate for wheelchairs; excellent wheelchair friendly path with braille signs at the far end of the Sendero de Valdeinfierno
The Alcornocales (= ‘cork oaks’) is a heavily wooded area of low sandstone hills and mountains. It is bisected by the recently built A381 which forms a convenient, if unnatural, division between the northern part of the park (accessed via small mountain roads between Alcala de los Gazules and Jimena de la Frontera) and the southern sierras. Although the new A381 carves something of an unsightly gash through the area, it does mean that the old road (now the ‘via servicio’) is now a pleasant virtually traffic free route through the park with plenty of opportunities to stop and scan the skies. Pulling over on this road will pick up most species in the area, but there are also a number of pleasant senderos (footpaths) that allow greater access. Walking these paths is often a good way to catch up with Iberian Chiffchaff, Cirl Bunting, Crested Tit, etc. . Many of these footpaths (senderos) are shown on a series of leaflets (see - http://adsise.com/.) . The Visitors’ Centre off the A381 on the Benalup road has a selection of leaflets (including the excellent ‘Ornithological map’). The short list of routes noted below (in order as you drive south) is not exhaustive, but will allow you to explore a good range of habitats (see also SW1 & E2.1 for other routes off the A381):a) - Sendero La Teja – take exit 66 -. The footpath is on the left c1.7 km to the south It has a good mix of woodland and open land with views of the Alcornocales. I have had Iberian Green Woodpecker, a scarce species in the southern part of the Alcornocales plus Iberian Chiffchaff, Rock Bunting etc. Bonelli’s Eagle is a possibility here as I had a pair displaying here in May 2011.
b) Sendero Monasterio del Cuervo – this footpath runs west from the Charco Redondo reservoir into the hills to a ruined monastery. It should have many of the birds noted above. c) - Sendero El Palancar – take exit 70 - this is circular route of c7 km is 2km south of this exit (by the Charco Redondo reservoir). It snakes through woodland and open land plus a couple of ancient cave shelters – good for all the species noted at other sites, but is probably better for passing raptors. d) - Sendero de Valdeinfierno – take exit 73 - A gem of the walk (5km) with wheelchair accessible footpath is on the right c1.5km from the exit. Either park on the track just off the service road or drive c1km along the track to the wheelchair accessible walk. The walk explores a narrow shady valley (= ‘canuto’). The car park just off the road usually has Cirl Bunting and often Blackeared Wheatear. The woodland has Crested Tit, Iberian Chiffchaff, etc. An evening visit could conceivably produce Eagle and Scops Owl. It appears that the track here continues well into the hills. e) Area Recreativa Montera del Torero - a little to the south of the Valdeinfierno there’s a convenient picnic site (Area Recreativa Montera del Torero) which can be worth exploring although it can get noisy at weekends.. Note that the northern part of the Alcornocales is treated in E2 – this split reflecting the communication routes rather than any difference in habitats or birds, Site E2.1 is particularly closeby. The Ojen valley is given a separate section (SW14) as is the wonderfully noxious, but raptor rich Los Barrios rubbish tip (SW15) Access: The old A381 rolls its way down towards Algeciras switching from side to side of the new main road (accessed from the village from both the north and south exits off the A381). There are also minor tracks and paths heading into the park which cry out for exploration.
SW 14 - *** Ojen Valley Why visit? –During contrary autumnal winds this valley forms a ‘waiting room’ for migrating BoPs; when passage is at it’s height they can stream through. é - good viewing along track; footpaths not accessible.
NOTE – despite being listed in bird guides for over two decades and regularly used by birders without problems for even longer I'm told that the Guardia Civil now stop 'unauthorised vehicles' from using it and have orders to prosecute those who do. Check locally for the current situation . The route, of course, remains open to walkers & cyclists The Ojen valley can be accessed either from the service road just north of Los Barrios (a) or minor roads to the south & east of Facinas (e). The following assumes driving from the direction of Los Barrios,
but the approximate distance from the turning off the Santuario (SW9.4)-Facinas road is given in brackets. Note that it often takes a lot longer to drive this route than you expect! This is one of the best places for birds of prey in southern Spain – raptor migration can be excellent so almost anything may turn up. In autumn when winds are unfavourable for cross-straits migration, the number of vultures and eagles here can quickly build up. Lanner have been seen in the past and it is a regular site for Ruppell’s Vultures (e.g. two here in August 2009). Bonelli’s Eagle occur. Common, Pallid, Alpine and White-rumped Swift may be present with the area around the 22 km ‘kilometre post’ said to be the most regular site for the latter, most elusive, species. (Note – in 2010 this marker, like many others, were removed during road repairs). Starting from service road (a) the A381 (21km) the road rises through farmland for 7.5 km (13.5km) to an old ruin (b) which makes a good watchpoint. A footpath along the Arroyo San Carlos del Tiradero (c) emerges from the woods just by the ruins, but is easier approached c1 km further along the track where the woods shade the track (12.8km). The path cuts down to a stream through some ancient woodland which has Iberian Chiffchaff, Bonelli’s Warbler, Crested Tit, Robin, Wren, etc. Another path, along the Canuto del Rico Blanco (d), runs uphill to the west, but needs special permission (from the park offices which have recently moved to the complex of buildings just off the Benalup road near the A381). Look out for a small pond along the route here which has information (in Spanish) on local amphibians. As the track continues towards Facinas there are many places to stop and the traffic is light. If open, weekends are best, stop at the small ‘venta’ (e) after about 11.5 km (9.5 km). It is one of the few that still cooks over a wood fire and has beaten earth floors! Raptors are often good here and the viewpoint c1km back towards Los Barrios often has Tawny Pipit. I As you approach the small reservoir (d) – about 15 km (3.6 km) - it becomes more open and less wooded. This area is often good for Thekla Lark. Beyond the reservoir the track finally becomes a good tarmac road particularly to the Santuario (SW9.4) and onto La Pena (SW9.3). If staying in Facinas you might try exploring the senderos along the ridge (a leaflet is available locally). It should be excellent for raptors. Note on road condition: Despite being shown on some maps as a ‘proper’ road this is no more than a track. In summer 2009 it was regraded and extensively repaired so that it was then a pleasant drive. However, by 2010 the road was already showing signs of wear and runnels/potholes already in evidence and by 2014 it was in a very poor state – doubtfully passable by anything other than a 4x4. Access: Take the A381 south exiting at either Exit 73 (drive south on the servicio past SW15f) or take exit 77 further south and drive north. Otherwise take the most northerly exit on the N340 for Fascinas and then first left which takes you to the valley.
SW 15 – * Los Barrios Rubbish Tip Why visit? – A great site for raptor photography (esp. Black Kite) with a good record for Ruppell’s Vulture; may also have Eagle Owl. é - good, if very smelly, viewing along road & track This rubbish tip was once the best place in the area to see kites and vultures (esp during the week when in use), but recent changes in the regime has made it far less attractive than it used to be. Take Exit 80 to a roundabout where you can either head right towards Los Barrios or swing left along the service road. If you go left along the service road, turn off to the right after c0.6 km to explore a minor road for a good mix of passerines and passing raptors. This is a good area for Hawfinch (esp. early in the morning); check the trees on the left immediately after turning onto the road and some tall poplars after c400m for this species. At the end of the road there's a sendero into the woodland (a) which may be worth a look. If you continue along the service road the venta here – Restaurante Venta El Frenazo - is one of the best in the area and is worth a stop in its own right. If you head into Los Barrios turn left after c800m onto a minor road towards Estacion de San Roque (and on to
Jimena). . After just under 3km turn left at a sharp bend towards the rubbish tip Raptors often congregate along this road (b) and may include dozens of Lesser Kestrels hanging in the air beside the road. The rubbish tip (c) soon comes into view so swing off left onto a good track that skirts the site. It can take some determination to stay at this often extraordinarily smelly and fly ridden site, but, if endured, the rewards can be fantastic. Attracted by plentiful food Black Kites can float over at low level, Griffon Vultures constantly commute to and fro and for Ruppell’s Vulture this is a regular site. Hardly surprising, as it sits beneath a major migration route, this place often has streams of Honey Buzzard, Booted and Short-toed Eagles passing over in season. (I once had 18 species of raptor – including Ruppell’s Vulture and Lanner - here in a couple of hours) Drive along the tracks flanking the tip – to the left, c1km beyond the entrance to the tip, you can pull over in a gateway ( d) where raptors pass over a low ‘saddle’ towards the tip without so much of a stink. (You also have a superb views across the Alcornocales). Numerous White Stork and Cattle Egret are also present. The site may also attract Eagle Owl although seeing them isn’t easy. Note that a Long-legged Buzzard has been resident in the Los Barrios area for several years so check all buzzards in the area carefully. (Unfortunately, I do not know the exact location although it does seem, from photos, to like sitting on pylons!). Los Barrios itself also has Scops Owl – which seems a scarce species in this area. Once committed to this route it can be worth continuing along the CA9207 to reach the A405 north of San Roque station. The open habitat here (e) looks worth exploring for species like Tawny Pipit and may hold some surprises. This is also a good alternative route if heading for Castellar/Jimena. Access: Take the northern exit (Exit 77) for Los Barrios and head towards the town for just under 1 km and then take the first left onto the CA920 (for San Roque station/Castellar). After c3km go left at a T-junction towards the rubbish tip (2km). Park along the rough track to the left (you can also park by a gate another c1km further on)
SW 16 – * Vejer Area Why visit? – An historic town (with Lesser Kestrels), some interesting walks and views over wetlands, but mainly to see re-introduced Bald Ibis. é - walks not easily accessible, but much can be seen from the roads. Although an attractive town with a good population of Lesser Kestrels and well placed to get its share of passing migrant raptors, Vejer would not feature on any birding itinerary were it not for the small colony of re-introduced Bald Ibis breeding nearby. This colony is already a matter of local pride and its existence has now been publicised on Spanish TV, in newspapers and widely on the internet. A number of nearby footpaths and tracks give access the surrounding countryside whilst the archaeological remains provide a pleasant diversion from birding. The town itself makes a pleasant base for exploring the area (particularly for those with non-birding partners). Take the A 315 Barbate road, but after a few hundred metres pull off onto a large gravel car park in La Barca de la Frontera. The riverine bushes here has a good colony of Cattle and Little Egrets, but the star of the show is the small colony of Bald Ibis breeding on the cliffs (a) above the road. Although extraordinarily tolerant of passing traffic (vehicular and pedestrian) remember that this is one of the rarest birds in the world so give them plenty of space. In spring they often rummage in the car park for nesting material where, by staying in your car and being patient, you can get excellent photos. The nearby venta is highly recommended.
A minor road, just short of the small industrial estate, which follows the Rio Barbate affords good views across what was once the Laguna del Torero (b). Although rather distant, the rice paddies here can hold Collared Pratincoles, Purple, Squacco & Night Herons, White & Black Storks, etc. so are often worth a short detour. In the evenings check for the very local Scops Owl which may be present. Look out too for Black-winged Kite in this area. Further along this road there's a large sign for the 'Ruta El Abejaruco' (c) – largely designated for its archaeological interest, this footpath that snakes up over the hill affording superb views across the valley to Vejer. This path is good for Cirl Bunting, Mediterranean warblers, etc and the small orchard where the path divides looks perfect for Wryneck. A second footpath, Ruta 'Molinas de Aqua' at Santa Lucia (d), passes more impressive ancient remains (an aqueduct), but has a similar mix of birds. The minor road running south (e) quickly degenerates into a dirt track, but not before it takes you along a spectacular ridge giving you excellent views in all directions. Naturally, this ridge can attract migrating raptors. This track – poor in parts – eventually reaches the woods at la Brena. Finally, a series of pools off the A 315 (f) attract a range of wading birds [see also SW6 (a)].
3 – EAST CADIZ PROVINCE
Introduction - Essentially, this mountainous area comprises of the northern part of the Alcornocales Natural Park and Grazalema Natural Park (partially in Malaga province). To the north and east it is defined by provincial boundaries and to the south by the Mediterranean. The only wetlands are Lagos de Arcos & Bornos to the north and Sotogrande on the coast. The valley of the Guadiaro (on the border with Malaga) is a stronghold for Rufous Bushchat and Tawny Pipit. The mountains (esp. Grazalema) are strongholds for Bonelli’s Eagle, Eagle Owl, Rock Thrush, Black Wheatear, Rock Sparrow and, in winter, Alpine Accentor. To the south lies Gibraltar – a famous watchpoint and home to Barbary Partridge. Downloadable leaflets: Grazalema leaflet - http://adsise.com/?p=50&lang=es-es Alcornocales - http://adsise.com/?p=21&lang=es-es
E1 - * Lago (Embalse) de Arcos & Lago (Embalse) de Bornos Why visit? – Nesting herons, Purple Gallinule, waders, winter ducks & poss. Savi’s & Olivaceous Warbler é - good viewing along road/tracks – footpaths generally poor. These two reservoirs are probably not prime destinations for wetland birds (other areas are better), but make a very convenient stop for those staying in or going to the Grazalema. Lago (or Embalse) de Arcos (a) is a small reservoir at the foot of the hill upon which Arcos de la Frontera stands. It is overlooked by the newish suburb of El Santiscal (reached by the A372 Grazalema road). View from the promenade along Av. de Principe de Espana for grebes and such like in winter. A minor road (b) which swings north (via the dam for Embalse de Bornos), then west onto the A384, passes some wetter areas (particularly in the north-east corner of the reservoir) and may be worth a quick look (Savi’s Warbler has been reported from the area). Similarly the CA6105 passes the southern shore of the Embalse de Bornos where limited views can be gained (c). This road eventually reaches the A373 where you can head north for Villa Martin The much larger northern reservoir, Lago (or Embalse) de Bornos, is much more interesting – particularly around the shallower ‘arms of the lake. The first (as you head north-east) is just west of the settlement of Coto de Bornos. Take the CA 7102 to the village, but after c750m pull off onto a track along the back of this ‘arm’ which is visible after several hundred metres. Depending on water levels this may be in prime condition or just a dry lakebed. The tamarisk scrub is good for Olivaceous Warbler. Further along the A384 you can turn north on the A371 (to Espera) where you can survey another shallow part of this reservoir (e) – if wet a good spot for Little Ringed Plovers and migrant waders. A walkable track runs along the western edge of this arm. Other tracks run through tamarisk scrub west from Villa-Martin; turn off the A384 for Villamartin, but almost immediately head west on a drivable dirt track. Pull off by the lake and explore on foot. Note that after a wet winter all of this area may be under water. The best area, though, is along a signposted track (f) running south from the far (eastern) side of the bridge that crosses this ‘arm’. The old bridge here projects into the tamarisks and a track runs along the side of the lake to a shallow inlet clogged with vegetation and a small peninsular/island (again depending on water levels). There are usually plenty of herons here – Cattle & Little Egret (look out for Great White), Purple, Night and Squacco Heron. The reed/tamarisk swamp also has Purple Gallinule and Olivaceous Warbler Osprey winters and, due to the local re-introduction project, is a good bet for breeding in the near future Access: Lago de Bornos is c8km from Arcos and cannot be missed as head along the A 384 ArcosAlgodonales-Ronda road. For directions to exact sites see above. Lago de Arcos is north of the A 372 ArcosGrazalema road.
E2 - ** Los Alcornocales (North) Why visit? – A spectacular area of wild wooded mountains with good numbers of raptors. é - decent birding from the road.laybys/picnic sites, but few tracks/paths accessible by wheelchair The Alcornocales Natural Park is huge area low sandstone mountains and hills, mainly wooded (or scrub covered) until you reach the higher peaks. . Birds present include Griffon Vultures, Booted & Bonelli's Eagle, Blue Rock Thrush, Eagle Owl, Rock Buntings Bonelli’s Warbler, Iberian Chiffchaff, Whiterumped Swift, etc., plus familiar birds like Great-spotted Woodpecker, Robin, Wren, Nuthatch, Mistle Thrush etc. Anywhere with a good view or access to habitats can be productive, but the following sub-sites are particularly good:-
E 2.1 - ** Alcala de los Gazules & the Molinos Valley (see also SW 1) Why visit? – Lesser Kestrels in Alcala and a gentle introduction to the mountains. é - good views of Lesser Kestrel in the village; track along Molinos valley good, but footpaths inaccessible. Alcalá de los Gazules is the ‘gateway’ to the park from the SW. My coverage of the area is probably rather overdone as this is my base in the province. Nonetheless it’s a good area to explore with interesting habitats. It is also home to a good population of Lesser Kestrel and on an early spring evening it’s quite possible to see c80-100 birds over the village. For closer views follow signs to the old town through the village and walk up San Jorge Church (you can drive, but the route out of the village from here is tricky if you don’t know it) Look for Lesser Kestrels perching on the trees that line the road beside the steep escarpment to the west. (Excellent photographic opportunities exist here – better still from my terrace where, if I’m at home, I’ll invite you in for a beer! The old mirador by the castle has excellent views into the park and can be good for watching migration. Blue Rock Thrush sometimes breed here.
A number of good sites are dotted around the village:a) - Ermita de los Santos (santuario) – take well signposted exit off the A381 for the santuario (just north of Alcala de los Gazules). Follow the road to the santuario (c1.7 km ) and explore the waymarked tracks on foot (or a 4x4?). To the north this runs through the old olives back to the A381. To the south tracks go through increasingly open farmland ultimately lead to the A396 (see SW2 (c). Not fully explored but the habitat looks very interesting! b) Venta la Liebre track – a track/footpath runs from the santuario under the A381 to the service road where it continues north into the scrub – another place to explore. A little further along the service road a drivable track (b) – signposted for Paterna and viewable on GoogleStreetview!)
runs through interesting light scrub to the Venta la Liebre on the CA6200 (Alcala-Paterna road). Another area worthy of further exploration. c) Service road below Alcala - the service road that links Exits 42 and 45 on the A381 should not be ignored. Just east of Exit 42 a bridge crosses a small stream – Red-rumped Swallow may nest here and the scrub can hold both Melodious and Olivaceous Warbler . Further along I’ve had Hawfinch and, once, Eagle Owl. d) Rio Barbate, Alcala – a signposted ‘footpath’ follows the track here crossing a ford over the river and on towards the A381. The trees here have Golden Oriole and the scrub may repay further investigation. e) Molinos valley - a good tarmac road heads off eastwards along the Molinos valley. Just after you turn onto this road look out for Black-eared Wheatear on the right; a pair usually breed here. This valley can channel migrants in the spring so is often ‘alive’ with Woodchat Shrike, Bee-eater, etc. Just under 3km along the road a track off on the right ( e on map) can be profitably explored – again it’s a good spot for Black-eared Wheatear, but migrants filter along here (inc., with luck, Greatspotted Cuckoo in early spring). f) Molinos sendero - a very pleasant walk (f) takes you c1.5 km into the hills and, in theory at least, this old droveway goes all the way through to Jimena, but you can walk up to the Carrel PicachoPiguera (g). The crags here harbour Blue Rock Thrush throughout the year (although they seem to have declined in recent years) and pay close attention to the larks as I've had both Crested and Thekla Lark here. In spring and summer Woodchat Shrike, Black-eared Wheatear and Beeeater are frequent. I have had Rock Sparrow along this stretch, but they are very scarce and unusual in the area. This is an excellent walk for seeing raptors; I have seen Egyptian Vulture, Bonelli's Eagle (less frequent in recent years), Peregrine, and Goshawk here. There's a large roost (200 - 600+ birds) of Griffon Vultures at the end of the valley and so it’s a good place to look for these magnificent birds particularly when they are scarce elsewhere. (NB Spain’s second Ruppell’s Vulture occurred within the ‘parish’ so this must be as good a site as anywhere to look for this elusive visitor). As you climb up along the footpath you pass through a narrow defile and then drop down to old ruined mill (molino) buildings – good spot to stop and scan the skies from the shade. The open scrub has Cirl Bunting whilst the woods hold Long-tailed Tit, Firecrest and Iberian Chiffchaff. After the Llanos de Libar (see E3) this is the place that most impresses visitors I’ve taken to this area. g) Carrel Picacho-Piguera – take exit 45 - this cycle route is rather further from Alcala than the other sites noted here, but is more easily treated in this section. It’s about 12 km south of the service station along the service road. Taking care to avoid speeding cyclists follow the track into light woodlands This is a good site for Iberian Chiffchaff, Bonelli’s Warbler, etc. It eventually links to the road from Alcala de los Gazules just north of El Picacho. Access - Take the CA215 from the village for Ubrique, but turn right at a sharp bend towards the local campsite. Drive to the end of the road and take the footpath into the hills. Continue up to the old ruined mills.
E 2.2 ** Alcornocales -
El Picacho - Puerto Galis – Charco de los Hurones
Why visit? – A terrific driving route with several good options on foot; Iberian Chiffchaff, Bonelli’s Eagle, raptors. é - good viewpoints along road; footpaths not wheelchair friendly except cycle route (c). The narrow, twisting, turning CA 215 corkscrews it’s way up into the mountains from Alcala – aptly so as it runs through cork oak woodland. The wooded picnic site at El Picacho (a) is about 11km from the turning onto the CA 215 below Alcala (or, if coming from the north, 9.5 km from Puerto Galis). The area around the picnic site and the carpark a little further on is a reliable site for Bonelli’s Warbler, Firecrest, Nuthatch (a recent arrival here) and Short-toed Treecreeper. For the energetically inclined there’s a walk up from the car park to El Picacho ( b - the obvious peak above the road) via the Subida al Picacho sendero (c4:00 hr). Alpine Accentor has been seen in winter here (but other sites for this species can be reached by car). Griffon Vultures, Booted and Bonelli’s Eagles are regular here. For the less energetic there’s the Garganta de Puerto Oscuro sendero (40 mins.) which takes in a small woodland pool (Grey Wagtail is regular here).
The longer walk needs permission from the park authorities (in centre just off the Benalup road near Alcala). There is also a ‘feeding station’ for vultures just south of the ‘field station’ here, but this is not open to the public (it does mean, though, that there are often vultures in the area). If staying at the El Picacho centre (www.elpicacho.es) you may be able to arrange a visit. The path up to the peak crosses a cycle route (c) accessed from further up the CA 215) that ultimately reaches the A 381 (see E2.1 g). The junction of the minor road (CA 5201) to San Jose is the excellent viewpoint of Puerto Palomas* (d) – another good spot for raptors including Peregrine, Griffon Vultures, Goshawk, Sparrowhawk, Booted & Short-toed Eagles. (*Note: not to be confused with a second ‘Puerto Palomas’ in Grazalema) Spanish Imperial and Golden Eagles have also been seen here (esp. in winter), but you’d need luck to see one. Crag Martin, Alpine Swift, etc. occur but are often distant The road to San Jose can make a pleasant circular route back to Alcalá. At a sharp bend another minor road (CA 6108) heads off for Algar. This can be a pleasant detour and a scenic route to Arcos de la Frontera After c7km there’s a very attractive and 7km scenic drive on the right to Charco de los Hurones (e - also c7km from the CA6108). There’s a circular 6km walk (Cortijo Rojitan) through the wooded hills on the right at the start of this road. Just over halfway to Charco de los Hurones there’s a small picnic site along the river with a rocky crage nearby (often good for Griffon Vulture). Charco de los Hurones itself is charming ‘model village’ (with a small venta for refreshments) built for workers in the hydro-electric industry. From here footpaths take you up to (and across) the dam of a large reservoir and into the surrounding woods. Heading towards Algar there’s also a large reservoir that can concentrate hirundines and swifts (and Lesser Kestrels). The La Sauceda – Aljibe area (f) is covered below. Access – See map
E 2.3 - **La Sauceda–Jimena (North) - Cadiz/Malaga (see also E6) Why visit? – Open woodland – Crested Tit, Iberian Green Woodpecker, raptors, etc.
é - viewing possible off parking places along the route At the venta at Puerto Galis, go straight on for Ubrique on the A 2304 (see E2 on Grazalema) or right towards Jimena da la Frontera. (The Jimena road is the CA 8201 in Cadiz Province which becomes the C3331 as it passes through Malaga province only to transform itself back into the CA 8201 as it returns into Cadiz Province). Note that the venta at Puerto Galis has the reputation of serving the best game dishes in the area -recommended. About 4.5 km down this road (or c15km from Jimena) on a sharp bend is the abandoned settlement of La Sauceda (a); once a notorious haunt of smugglers and ‘bandits’. This site is in Malaga province (a narrow tongue of which extrudes into the Alcornocales), but since it can only be reached through Cadiz province it is better treated here.
Several footpaths radiate into the surrounding woodland (see noticeboard and leaflets for details). You can walk up to Aljibe the highest peak in the area (a steep 7km walk) and even across to El Picacho (20 km). The woods here have a different, ‘softer’ character than in the El Picacho area. (A new noticeboard here suggests that Orphean & Subalpine Warbler, and Iberian Grey Shrike may be found here – all scarce breeding species in nearby Cadiz province other than in the Grazalema area although I’ve not seen them here myself). This is a possible location for White-rumped Swift although, again, I’ve not seen them here personally although Red-rumped Swallows are present. Scops Owl – evidently a scarce bird in the province – have been heard calling here. There are several other walks/cycle routes along the A 8201/C3331 which deserve closer inspection (not all of which are noted here). On the Malaga-Cadiz border there are several cycle routes (b) which explore the woodlands in the area. The road follows the Rio Hozgarganta down towards Jimena. The river can be glimpsed along the route and at several sites viewed for Grey Wagtail and other species (Dipper is a rare visitor to this stream). About 6km south of the border (and a similar distance from Jimena) there’s a 14km walk (c) through woods to Laja Alta (the nearer peak, c5km). Cueva de la Laja here has some ancient ‘rock art’ to add a little culture to the walk. A little further on there’s also a pleasant picinic site with paths down to the stream. Another 3km closer to Jimena there’s a circular cycle track that plunges down the river and loops round back to where it started (this can also be accessed nearer the town). There’s an excellent mirador at (d) which has views towards Jimena de la Frontera and beyond (see E6). Access – See also E5 Approach either from the A2304 from Alcala/Ubrique (which assumed in the notes above) or from the south via Jimena de la Frontera. The A2304 is narrow and twisting, but the CA8201/C3331 is rather better and has a few more places to pull off the road
E 3 – *** Grazalema Why visit? –
place for raptors (esp. Bonelli’s Eagle), Black Wheatear, Rock Sparrow, etc. plus superb scenery. - most footpaths unsuitable but many species can be seen along roadside. Several picnic sites with benches etc THE
Grazalema is a superb Natural Park which is divided between the provinces of Cadiz and Malaga (c75%/c25% respectively). It is roughly defined by the A373 to the west, the Algeciras-Ronda railway line to the south-east and the A374/A384/CA8102 to the north. Being an area of limestone hills and mountains it looks, and feels, very different to the nearby Alcornocales. It is an orchid hunter’s paradise and doesn’t do too badly for birds either! Almost anywhere in this large park can hold good birds so simply stop wherever the habitat looks right for the target species. There are numerous ‘senderos’ – too many to be listed in their entirety that allow exploration of the area; several good guide books/maps showing footpaths are available. Geo/Estel publishes the largest scale map (1:25,000), but the text in the guidebook is in garbled English so you may prefer the larger scale (1:40,000) map by Penbetica which is accompanied by a good English guidebook. A good trilingual (Spanish/English/German) booklet with maps on the park’s birds is also available. A good leaflet on the area is also available here (see also http://adsise.com/).
This mountainous area is better than Alcornocales for a number of species. The exposed limestone rocks form a distinctive ‘rockscape’ more attractive to for species such as Black Redstart, Black Wheatear, Rock Sparrow and, in winter, Alpine Accentor. It is also better for Bonelli’s and Golden Eagles. A few (23) Spanish Imperial Eagles and a similar number of Black Vultures (increasing?) occur plus the occasional Ruppell’s Vulture and Long-legged Buzzard. All of which make this a superb place for the raptor hunter. This large and fascinating area is best approached via a variety of linked itineraries which are outlined in the notes that follow.
E 3.1 - * El Bosque - Grazalema Why visit? – Golden Oriole, Grey Wagtail etc.. é - access should be possible at Jardin Botanico – several good lay-bys en route
The 20 km drive between El Bosque to Grazalema is one of the most scenic in the province with views from the mirador near Grazalema (c) stretching across to Cadiz and the Atlantic almost 90 km away to the west. However, much of the route is wooded so it’s not the best approach if you’re looking for the more specialised ‘rockscape’ species (Black Wheatear, rock thrushes, etc). The Jardin Botanico (a) in El Bosque is at the far end of a cobbled road which starts behind Las Truchas hotel (on the left as you enter the village from the east). It has a display of local plants, but is also reputed to be the best place to see the scarce and local Wryneck in the area. The track, shaded by the rare endemic Pinaspar pines, continues for c4km to Benamahoma. Look along the river for Golden Oriole, Grey Wagtail, etc. Roughly 6km from Benamahoma towards Grazalema (another c8km further on) a steep path climbs the 4km up to El Torreon (1648m) which has Alpine Accentor and, of course, fabulous views! As already noted the mirador (c) just before you reach Grazalema has superb views, but it is also the starting point for several ‘senderos’. A little distance along the CA 9104 another sendero (d) heads east but access is limited to protect the Pinaspar pine forest (native only to Grazalema and Sierra de las Nieves). Permission must be sought in the park offices (in the village) to walk this route. Access: The area can be quite busy on summer weekends so try to visit at quieter times
E 3.2 - ** Ubrique – Grazalema Road (A 2302) Why visit? – A good route for picking up Iberian Grey Shrike, Black Wheatear & Bonelli’s Eagle é - Good viewing along road (esp. b); most paths/tracks unsuitable There are various stopping points (but never enough!) on the Ubrique - Grazalema road where Black Wheatear, Rock Bunting, Crag Martin, etc. can be seen. Unfortunately there are few places to stop as you drive out of Ubrique (a) on the A2302, but if you can pull over look out for Thekla Lark, Black and Black-eared Wheatear and Orphean Warbler. Several paths start at Benaocaz (b) – Sendero Salto del Cabrero (9km) north from the A 2302 just west of the village is one of the best. Although a linear path it can be combined with other tracks to form a loop. It crosses good limestone areas – typical habitat for Black Wheatear, Rock
Bunting, etc and, perhaps, a chance of the scarce Common Rock Thrush (plus orchids in spring). The mirador at Cintillo (c), a few km east of Benaocaz, is unmissable as it is on a very sharp hairpin bend. It offers the car bound birder a chance to see Black Wheatear, Rock Bunting, Firecrest, Chough and, with luck Egyptian Vulture, Bonelli’s or Golden Eagle. If you want a walk, the picnic site below the mirador here offers several options. The road to Villaluengo del Rosario can be interesting – an obvious stopping place on the southern side of the road just west of the village (d). This is good for Thekla Lark and may also have Iberian Grey Shrike and Rock Sparrow. The energetic can take the walk to Llanos del Repubilicano. Several paths climb up from the A 2302 to the limestone bulk of the limestone sierra. This is fairly ‘serious’ walking and not to be undertaken lightly, but the high limestone ‘pavements’ are where you might find the scarce Common Rock Thrush and up in the higher areas Alpine Accentor (usually a winter visitor here) has been found in the summer …. Finally the area around the junction of the A372/A2302 (e) can be searched profitably; it’s a regular spot for Iberian Grey Shrike and Iberian Green Woodpecker. Should you want to explore this area more fully a good sendero runs off the A 372 along the stream. Like Benaocaz, Grazalema is a hub for many walking routes (see introduction) which beg to be explored if you have the time/energy. However, for the more indolent careful scanning of the numerous swifts over the village may just result in a sighting of Whiterumped Swift (try the mirador at Plaza de Asomadores). Note that in 2010 an adult Ruppell’s Vulture spent the summer around Grazalema and beyond towards Ronda. Access – This route assumes an approach from Ubrique, but can equally well be done in the opposite direction. Ubrique has narrow poorly signposted streets – approaching from the south follow what signs there are for El Bosque then, as you climb out of the town go right (at a petrol station) onto the A2302 to climb up a narrow twisting road. Then follow the A2302 towards Grazalema.
E 3.3 - ** Grazalema – Puerto de Palomas – Zahara – Grazalema Circuit Why visit? – An excellent circular route with several chances of White-rumped Swift, plus all ‘rockscape’species; wonderful scenery é - good viewpoints along roads – car park at (b) sometimes has Alpine Accentor in winter; paths/tracks generally unsuitable for wheelchairs Even before you reach Grazalema look out for birds – as noted in E3.2 the fields as you approach the village may hold Iberian Grey Shrike and rocky field closer still attract Black Wheatear. Grazalema is an attractive village (see introduction to the area) and many footpaths originate here – one example is the path up to the Sierra del Endrinal ( b) off the A 372 as you leave the village westwards. Blue Rockthrush, Cirl Bunting and, with luck, Rock Sparrow can be seen along the lower reaches of this path. However, for
the less energetic a circuit of the area by car allows you to see most species and investigate a greater range of habitats. The most obvious route is to leave the village westwards on the A372 (to El Bosque) but then turning right for Zahara de la Sierra (14km) on the CA9104. (If arriving from El Bosque this turning on the left after just over 17km). Various walks head off this road to the famous Pinsapar (an endemic pine) woods, but access is restricted (esp. in summer and permission is needed from the park authorities). The highpoint here is the Puerto de Palomas (c) over the Sierra de Zafalgar. A circular 4km walk ( Subida al Cerro Corros) from a small car park at the top of the pass runs up the ridge to the east to Mointe Prieto is open at all times. Alpine Accentor sometimes occur by the road at the Puerto, but try walking this route if they’re not present. This is also a good site for Chough and tame Rock Buntings. If nothing else this route is worth it for the amazingly serpentine road that drops down to Zahara! The village of Zaraha de la Sierra is one of the most picturesque in Spain and the walk up to the castle worth the effort. It also has many good restaurants. A minor road (A2300) creeps along the southern side of the embalse – check out the short lane (d) to a campsite at the end of a small bay here as the ever elusive Rufous Bushchat has been
reported in this area. A minor road a little further on connects with the CA 9173 (e); the habitat looks equally good for bushchat road so is another area worthy of further exploration. The impressive crags along theCA 9173 are home to several pairs of Eagle Owl which can be heard in the evenings, but you’d be very lucky to see them. White-rumped Swift is one of the area’s specialities. In addition to Grazalema it can be seen over the charming village of Prado del Rey (off to the NW along the MA8102). However another site is the south-eastern tip of Embalse de Zahara (f). As you continue along the A2300 you cross a bridge (just before the turning onto the CA9173) and c720m further on turn right (on a sharp bend) onto a track down to the reservoir which takes you down to an old bridge and the edge of the reservoir. Whiterumped Swifts (plus Common, Pallid and Alpine) come here to hawk around and drink. A second site for White-rumped Swifts is off the MA 8403 (f). Exit the A374 onto the MA8403 at km 107 (opposite the Venta La Vega). From this junction drive for 2.5km until you reach a culvert protected by crash barriers (4.5km from Montejaque). Park near (but not blocking) the stonework & iron gates here and take the track on your right on foot. Follow the right fork until you reach a small lake. In favourable conditions White-rumped Swifts (plus Common, Pallid and Alpine) hawk over and drink from this lake. The surrounding woodland has Hawfinch, Iberian Green Woodpecker, Iberian Chiffchaff, Bonelli’s, Subalpine and Orphean Warblers. Access – This is a terrific circular route with a good chance of some special birds. Check locally about access along footpaths as some are restricted. Grazalema has been voted the ‘most attractive village’ in Andalucia so it can be very busy on summer weekends so avoid if possible
E 3.4 - ** Mirador Mojon de Vibora - Cortes de la Frontera Area Malaga – 16km Why visit? raptors with a new
– Another great drive with all expected woodland species; excellent for feeding station for vultures en route.
- vulture feeding station (d) wheelchair friendly, good gravel track at (b), other paths poor; good viewpoints along roads
The starting point for this 16 km section is the Mirador Mojon de Vibora ( a) close to the junction of the A373/A2304. The mirador has fabulous views across to Grazalema and the nearby venta’s car park is often a good place to catch up with an obliging Thekla Lark. (The venta’s not a bad lunch stop either!). Take the A373 towards Cortes de la Frontera, but pull off after only c3 km (c 13km west from Cortes) onto a drivable gravel track (b). This is the GR7 long distance path which ultimately takes you all the way to Athens! The isolated rocky peak (Peñon del Berrueco) above the road here is a good place to look for Ibex. This track takes you through woodlands with all the typical birds of the area – Great-spotted and Iberian Green Woodpecker, Woodlark, Wren, Robin, Chaffinch, Crested Tit, Mistle Thrush, Iberian Chiffchaff, etc (plus Large Tortoiseshell Butterfly). Look out too for Orphean Warbler in the open wild olive scrub here. Continuing towards Cortes de la Frontera at c11.5 km from your starting point a narrow metalled road (c) on your right plunges down into the valley towards Estacion de Colmenar (c4.5 km from Cortes). This detour takes you through open woodland to Colmenar and Gaucin beyond. All the species mentioned previously may be found along this very scenic road. In autumn migrating raptors often follow the ridge here westwards towards Tarifa – on the right day seeing 1,000+ Honey Buzzards pass over in 30 minutes is possible. In February 2011 a vulture feeding station (d – see map 53) complete with a public viewpoint, was established here (signposted ‘Observatorio de Aves’). Food is put out regularly and there is a hide for the use of photographers in the compound. This is available for 50€ (one person 40€ each for two – for details contact (in Spanish) email@example.com. You are met early in the day by 'Jose'
at the Venta los Monteros in Cortes de la Frontera. Note – if your Spanish isn't up to it please contact me so that I can pass you on to a bilingual intermediary. In addition to the expected raptors the area also attracts passerines feeding on the maggots! (NB – if heading on through Colmenar towards the Ronda/Jimena road look out for another new facility - a watchpoint for migrating birds – at “Ventorrillo de las Corchas”, Benarrabá). Back on the A373, as you head towards Cortes de la Frontera, you pass through a beautiful wooded landscape and stopping at every possible opportunity is tempting and hard to resist. This can be worth while as several Spanish Imperial Eagle (as well as Golden Eagle) have been seen along this road in recent years. Two or three Black Vultures have summered in recent years and Ruppell’s have occurred (although this species seems to wonder around this area widely). Navigating through Cortes and onto the MA8401 park behind the school (the last building in the village) to take the steep path into the mountains (d). This eventually links with the Llanos de Libar (E4). Towards the top of this path where the vegetation thins out look (and listen) for Orphean Warbler (check also for Subalpine). Beyond Cortes de la Frontera are the villages of Benaojan (with a 24-hour petrol station) and Montejaque (16.8km) . The latter village is the starting point for the superb Llanos de Libar (see NW 3). Access – This is a simple route with plenty of places to stop and scan for birds and to option of some good walks. However, the road is narrow and twisting so it may take longer than you think.
E 4 – *** Montejaque & Llanos de Libar Malaga E 4.1 – *** Benaojan & Montejaque Area Malaga Why visit?
– A good quick alternative ti the Llanos de Libar Accessible (but take care).
é - good viewpoints along roads.
The charming mountain village of Montejaque can be approached from three directions – each with its own distractions. Arriving from the south via the MA8401 (see NW 2.4) you pass much interesting habitat but above all the fascinating Cueva de la Pileta. Deep in this cave are some fine ancient cave paintings – well worth forgoing a few birds to see. This approach passes through some spectacular scenery and habitats. Look out for Black Wheatear, Blue Rockthursh and passing raptors (Bonelli’s Eagle is quite possible) en route (a). The second approach via the MA 7401 off the A374 (14.5km from junction of A367/A376 in Ronda) is, perhaps, the least interesting. A footpath (b) between the two stations and along the Rio Guadario may be worth exploring for woodland species. However, a quick stop at Cueva del Gato ( – an obvious rift in the cliff face (c) above the trainline should get most likely species. A path runs down to the river (listen for Golden Oriole here) and over the railway to the large opening of the cave. The trees here may hold Olivaceous Warbler. Here too both Crag Martins and Alpine Swift can shoot past at very
close range. (The impatient can also see these birds, though usually less well, from the car park). Continuing towards Montejaque after another kilometre (or 3.4 km from the A3740) you’re roughly halfway to Montejaque, but pull off onto an open area to the right. Explore steeps path running down to an old dam and the Cueva del Hundidero (another massive gash in a cliff face). Walk across the dam and explore the area as it is a good for all ‘rockscape’ birds and a variety of orchids. Squeezing through the narrow gorge (take care!), you eventually reach Montejaque (although you may have to resist investigating a track running off to the right as you approach Montejaque (e) which explores good habitat (6.1km)
E 4.2 – *** Llanos de Libar Malaga Why visit? – Quite simply, it’s a gem! All the ‘rockscape’ species are present, it’s the best place for picking up Bonelli’s Eagle and the scenery is stunning. - - good viewpoints along roads; rough track along Llanos de Libar makes good sites for Black Wheatear etc accessible (but take care).
NOTE – As of 2014 the authorities have restricted car access along the valley to 'authorised vehicles only' between 1st June and 15th October - apparently to reduce the risk of fire. It will continue to be possible to walk along the valley and, presumably, to do so in winter/spring. Of all the places I’ve taken visitors who’ve stayed with me in Alcala, this is consistently the area that has most impressed them. Many thanks to Peter Jones ( see www.spanishbirds.com) for showing me this superb valley. It follows on from the previous itinerary although the temptation to go straight to the valley can be hard to resist. Arriving from Grazalema the narrow concrete village road – Ave de Europa - for the Llanos de Libar (a) is an easy right-hand turn just as you reach the first houses. If in doubt look for the “Refugio de Libar” sign. (Arriving from the opposite direction it’s an easily missed and very acute lefthander – lookout for a white wall and rubbish/recycling bins on the left). This road looks an unlikely route, but after c350m an unsignposted and easily missed sharp right up a gravelled incline takes you onto the Llanos Libar track - see upper map. Approximate distances along the valley have been given from this point. [NB – if the road along the valley is closed continue along the Ave de Europa and park at the top of the village. It's c4km walk from here up to (e) during which should get you most of the 'key' species here. However, remember that the walk has little shade & can get very hot]. Like all gravel tracks this one can need careful negotiation, but is fine with suitable caution. About 500m along this track there’s a building (previously white now stone clad) on the left (b - on both maps). Stop here and patiently scan the cliffs – if there’s anywhere that Bonelli’s Eagle can be said to be a ‘banker’ it’s here. Often it’s the shadow rippling along the cliff face that alerts you to an incoming bird. Both Rock Bunting and Melodious Warbler can show well here and I’ve heard Golden Oriole and Wryneck from this point. About 400m further on (and just past a second track coming up from the village) there’s a large
stony field (b) and, a little further up, a small roadside pool. The field may have both Common and Black-eared Wheatear, Blue and, occasionally, Common Rockthrush and the pool sucks in thirsty birds. Continuing uphill you come to a rocky ‘saddle’ (c2.6km) which never disappoints (c). Check here, and elsewhere along the valley, for raptors – Booted & Short-toed Eagles, Peregrine,Egyptian Vultures, etc., etc. Check large vultures carefully as in recent years the odd Black Vulture has turned up here. This a great spot for Black Redstart, Black-eared and Black Wheatear, Rock Bunting and Rock Sparrow (listen for a sparrow with a bad cold!) – and Lesser Kestrel in its ‘natural habitat’. In late autumn and winter this is the spot for Alpine Accentor and Ring Ousel. Go uphill another 100m or so to where the round bends to the right by an isolated tree (d). If you haven’t heard them already, listen here for Orphean Warbler. Dartford Warbler hide in the scrub as does Spectacled Warbler, but Subalpine Warbler can be found on the wooded hillside. (For the energetic a footpath threads it’s way for 4km up to the Pico Ventana 1299m above this spot). As you continue along the track past this point the rocks, surprisingly, give way to a large flat field. At the far side of this area go through the gate and on into the oak woodland (e). These open woods have Mistle Thrush, Jay, Common Redstart, Bonelli’s Warbler, Iberian Chiffchaff and Subalpine Warbler. Continue until the woods thin out (8.8km) and park by old iron gates(f). The open grassy area beyond has Iberian Grey Shrike and listen for Chough. (Once again for the energetic there’s a 5km path up to Cara del Tunio 1316m). The path (g) continues from here to Cortes de la Frontera but is closed to vehicles. This is an unmissable site where surprises are always possible, Long-legged Buzzard has been seen in the valley, there are several records in recent winters of Wallcreeper and Ruppells Vulture has summered in the park. Access – As long as you take care access to Llanos de Libar is generally straight forward, but use extra care after heavy rains (esp. on the ‘uphill section’ just after you enter the woods where the track is quickly degraded). Take great care on the path to Cueva del Hundidero. The walks mentioned are steep and should be tackled with care (see locally available booklets).
E 5 – * Peñon de Zaframagón Why visit? – A good walk to a magnificent landlocked ‘mini-Gibraltar’: Griffon, Egyptian Vultures & Bonelli’s Eagle plus Olivaceous Warbler in the valley . é - the Via Verde is flat and level, but it’s a long way & some sections the track is rough. The Via Verde follows the route of an old railway line through scrub covered hills along the border of Seville and Cadiz province. One convenient place to pick up this long distance path is at an old station which is located on a very sharp bendjust south of Coripe (a). You can hire bikes here to cycle the 5.5 km to a Interpretive Centre (b) devoted to the large Griffon Vulture colony (inc. CCTV of the birds) on the Peñón de Zaframagón. This massive rocky prominence (a few km west of Olvera) looms over the old track. It also has breeding Bonelli’s Eagle and Egyptian Vulture (which the staff here sometimes call Quebrantahuesos – Lammergier – which does not occur here) The valley running north of the Via Verde also has Olivaceous Warbler. (NB –the Spanish Atlas shows an isolated report of Azurewinged Magpie in Seville province c10km north of Peñón de Zaframagón –over 60km outside the normal range of this species. It may be an anomaly but it may be worth bearing in mind. Alternatively you can approach closer to the Peñón via the CA 9101 – follow a track on a sharp bend (c3km from the
A 384) for c4km to the Via Verde. From here the Interpretive Centre is c2km (and good views of the crags slightly less). Access: Take the A8126/A8127 north off the AA384 (the junction is just over 3km west of Algodonales). Park at Coripe station (c15km) from which it’s a pleasantly flat 5.6km walk to overlook the Peñon (bikes can be hired at the old station which also houses a good venta and B&B) Alternatively take the CA 9101 to the track as noted above (Note than not all tracks are shown on the map).
E 6 - ** Jimena de la Frontera - South Why visit? – A chance of White-rumped Swift and Rufous Bushchat. é - as with most mountain roads birds can be seen from laybys etc., but tracks/paths poor. fantastic drive through the Alcornocales (see NW 1.3) takes you to the superbly sited Jimena (although, depending on where you start, it may well be quicker to approach the area via the coastal motorway north of La Linea). The castle (a) at Jimena is a good viewpoint and said to be a good site for the rare Whiterumped Swift (which, on my relatively few visits, I’ve yet to see). Crag Martins, Blue Rock Thrush, Lesser Kestrels, etc. are usually easy to find. There are several good walks along the Rio Hozgarganta from the village for, amongst other things, Goldenn Oriole. The 12km road up to the TV aerials (b) is now a good tarmac road (contra the latest edition of Garcia & Paterson), but it is still very narrow with abrupt ditches making passing other vehicles ('cork' lorries use this road regularly) difficult at times – take great care. The route takes you through a wide range of habitats (open hill tops, rocky area, deciduous riverine wood and open pine forest. land, through pine woods, pasture and open mountain tops). On a clear day, views across to Grazalema, Vejer and, above all, Africa, are superb. When raptors are approaching from the east in the autumn this can be an excellent watchpoint and is another site where Whiterumped Swift has been reported The area between the CA8200 and A405 south of Jimena is a good area for Short-toed Lark, Tawny Pipit and Rufous Bushchat. A recently regraded track, the Vega del Guadiaro, which connects the A 405 with the CA 8200, passes through some excellent habitats. A cactus hedge (c) just beyond Marchenilla has Rufous Bushchat, but as always this species can be very elusive. Continue up to the brow of the hill – the fields here are particularly good for Tawny Pipit and Shorttoed Lark. As the road drops down towards the CA 8200 check the dry stream bed below to the left for Rufous Bushchat (c3.5 km from Marchenilla). This species also sometimes sings from the wires on the right and is found around the small bridge at the base of the hill (c0.5 km). The valley can also be good for passing migrants, raptors, etc and check sparrows for Spanish Sparrow.
At the crossroads go straight on and pull off just beyond the bridge over the Rio Guadiaro ( c) – check the riverine vegetation for Olivaceous Warbler and Spanish Sparrow. The minor road beyond the bridge follows the river downstream past some good places to pull off and investigate. Back on the A 405, opposite the turning to Marchenilla and the Vega del Guadiaro, an old mule track heads down to a ford which can be good for Golden Oriole. (Ultimately, this old route connects with Jimena and should make an interesting walk) Access:Jimena and the castle are well signposted as are the walks from the village. For ( b) go through the two roundabouts as you drive uphill into the village and turn left along the Pasada de Alcala, past the Guardia Civil station and down to the river. The Marchenilla turning is by a large “9km Ruta de los Almoravides” sign. Previously parts of this track were undrivable but was repaired in 2014.
E 7 - ** Castillo de Castellar Why visit? – Stunning views and a chance of White-rumped Swift. é - the bridge (b) is accessible, good views from the Castillo (d – Blue Rock Thrush, swifts, etc) Castillo de Castellar is a well preserved walled village in a spectacular position with superb views. It has a similar range of species as Jimena (inc. White-rumped Swift). Take the CA9201 north off the A405. As you drive up stop and check the open woodlands for all the usual woodland species (inc. Orphean Warbler). Places to pull off are few, but after c2.5 km there a lay-by on the right ( a) and a short path into the woods. After 4.9km there’s a turning on the left near a small venta. Stop here and walk down to look over the old bridge (b) – this is a good site for Monarch butterflies. Continue along the road until it forks. Although this turning sports a ‘no entry’ sign, apparently it’s OK to drive as further long and after (1.5 km) there’s a lay-by (c) and a viewpoint across the reservoir to the Castillo. Rubbish bins and a mirador here seem confirm that it’s OK to ignore the sign!). These woods here are good for Bonelli’s Warbler, Golden Oriole etc. (plus Two-tailed Pasha). There’s also a circular (7km) walk through the woods from the end of this track Continue up to the castle (another 3.6 km) stopping where you can (this area reputedly has Rufous Bushchat, but I've heard of no reports in recent years). The last stretch up to the castle(d) is very narrow and twisting with limited so you might like to use the designated car park (signposted to the left) and walking up. The castle has Lesser Kestrel, Pallid Swift, often obliging Blue Rockthrush, Pallid Swift and occasionally Whiterumped Swift. This is also a good site for watching passing raptors. A number of footpaths explore this area – see local leaflets. On the far side of Castellar de la Frontera a track (e) leads through orchards, across a cattle grid to an open grassy area which can be good for pipits, larks and finches. Access: The quickest, but longer, route is to drop down to the coast on the motorway and then head back north rather than cut directly over the mountains. However, if you want explore the Alcornocales and are not too worried about when you arrive then the follow the A 2304 & CA 8201/C 3331 through the park to the
Jimena and then along the A 369 to Castellar. (NB the "road" shown on some maps entering Castillo from the north is a rough track suitable only for 4x4s).
E 8 - * Sotogrande Why visit? – Passage birds & seawatching and to challenge my obvious bias! é - Sandy, but there are boardwalks etc. Although small, this is one of the very few wetlands on Spain’s southern Mediterranean coast. As a result this the mouth of the Rio Guadiaro seems to ‘punch above its weight’ and attract more species than might be expected. On the down side, all roads into this vast upmarket housing estate have gates manned by security personnel, there’s a vast marina and much of what land hasn’t been covered by plush villas has been “green’d and bunker’d” for the golfing fraternity – all things I find somewhat depressing. I’m told too that the reserve (b) isn’t what it used to be. It is, at least, well signposted off the motorway. Take the road into the estate and head along the Paseo del Parque. Go left towards the port on Puerto Calle de Jamie El Conquistador. Look out for signs to the small reserve (on the seaward side), park and explore the area (there’s a hide & boardwalk). Continue through the unmitigatedly dreadful Puerto Sotogrande towards the A7 check the Laguna de las Camelias (c) on the right – this looks a good area for holding the odd migrant and I’m told that it is also a good for passing waders, ducks etc. Seabirds can also be seen off shore (Cory’s, Balearic and presumably Yelkouan Shearwater (?). Wetland birds include Purple Gallinule. Apparently Rufous Bushchat used to be found here, but they seem to have gone. Also present are Red-rumped Swallow, Red-necked Nightjar, Tawny Pipit and Scops Owl. Bluethroat & Penduline Tit winter See Garcia et al for details. (Note: although Ortolan Bunting is said to occur in the summer, the recent Spanish bird atlas doesn’t feature this species here or anywhere close by).
By following the coast south of Sotogrande towards Alcaidesa, after c1.5 km you reach some small pools around the mouth of the Rio Guadalquiton (d). These apparently seasonal pools temporary pools and sandpits can be attractive to waders when the conditions are right and the coastal scrub is likely to be good for migrants in spring and autumn. The lagoon where the river reaches the sea is probably a good place to look for gulls (inc. Audouin's) and terns. Whilst shearwaters should be visible from Punta Mala. Inland there's an area of cork oaks – evidently this is the only place where this habitat reached the Mediterranean. Access can also be reached via tracks (f) from Alcaidesa (just off the map to the south). Note: the area is well watched by a local birdwatcher who rates it highly …..
Access: If you’re in a camper van or towing a caravan security guards may refuse entry but otherwise there should be no problem. Access from Alcaidesa should be fine once you locate the track to Punta Mala.
E 9 - * Mirador El Higueron & the La Linea Area Why visit? – Passage raptors, migrants & different habitats nearGibraltar
é - . Mirador and park easily accessed When there are strong westerlies then Mirador El Higueron (a), conveniently accessible off the A 383 in either direction, can be excellent for broad winged migrants – expect all the usual raptors and both storks. A convenient option for those coming from Malaga By following the minor road along the coast towards Santa Margarita you eventually reach a tiny marsh Desembocadura del Arroyo del Negro (b). Elsewhere this marsh would be too small to be of any significance, but, as the nearest marsh to Gibraltar (c5.5 km), it can be worth a visit by those staying there who want to boost their species list. Along with Moorhen and Mallard passage gives you a chance of seeing a range of herons (Little Egret, Grey, Squacco & Purple Heron and Little Bittern) and Kingfisher plus a few waders. In winter the area may have Spanish Sparrow too. Wettish areas of scrub along the two streams here may also be worth a look. The new fishing port en route (Puerto La Atunara) may be worth checking for gulls. A third, somewhat speculative site, may also be worth checking – Sierra Carbonera (c) – a long ridge that runs north--south just to the west of Mirador El Higueron. There's a track running along the ridge and up to disused military buildings which in the past would have been a restricted area. I've not explored the area, but the wealth of photos online of these buildings and widespread demilitarisation elsewhere suggest the area is now open to the public (although vehicular access/state of the track may be uncertain). If easily accessible, then it should be excellent for migrant raptors, storks, swifts etc. Check locally for the latest information. Finally a fourth site – Parque Prinicess Sofía (d) – which is opposite the border can hold a few migrants and may be worth a quick look if you've time to spare en route to or from Gibraltar (apparently 60+ species have been recorded here).
Access: Mirador El Higueron is well sign posted off the A 383 (just less than 2 km south of the junction with the A 7) Desembocadura del Arroyo del Negro can be reached by following the coastal road and can be explored via paths down to the beach. (if you're arriving on foot from Gibraltar check buses to Puerto La Atunara and walk 1.5 km along the beach or grab a taxi asking for Playa El Burgo). For Sierra Carbonera as you enter the outskirts of La Linea along the CA 34 at a roundabout head towards the 'Cementerio' then after c300m go right at a new roundabout through a new industrial estate and go left at another new roundabout (c550m) and follow the road until the tarmac runs out (c 500m ). From here a dirt track loops up onto the Sierra – check access. The palm lined Parque Prinicess Sofía is obvious opposite the border with Gibraltar
Appendix 1 – Sites beyond Cadiz Province (Seville, Malaga & Gibraltar) Introduction: Although most key species can be seen in Cadiz Province, some are easier to see (if at all) at sites in bordering provinces. Accordingly I have added some notes on sites not too far over the border of the province. Some are also relatively close to Seville or Malaga airports so birdwatchers flying into the area have the option of exploring them en route to destinations elsewhere. Some sites have particularly sought after species. Seville Province has Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Great Bustard (both rarities in Cadiz) and Roller (a scarce migrant there) – the Osuna area has all three and is only c1 hour from Seville airport. Also in Seville, Brazo del Este is only c40 minutes from the airport (and not far off the route south) is good for more species which are difficult to find elsewhere (e.g. Savi's Warbler, more rarely Baillon's Crake and introduced African species like Black-headed Weaver). Malaga Province has far less of interest to offer for those heading for Cadiz Province. However, since birdwatchers often fly into Malaga, I have added two sites that are convenient to visit en route – one near the airport and the other close to the Cadiz border. I have not included Laguna de Fuente Piedra which is c1hr 20 mins. from Seville airport and c1hr from Malaga. It is a regular site for Lesser Flamingo (which has bred). When present they are normally seen from near the large visitors' centre which has directions, leaflets, etc about the reserve which would make any description here superfluous. Gibraltar is treated in this appendix since it is geopolitically neither in Cadiz nor in Spain and also because I'm not very familiar with the place. It is covered for completeness, but check in Garcia & Paterson for details. Sites which are partly in Seville province are treated in the main section: Marismas de Casablanca (NW4), Laguna de los Tollos (NW 5) & Penon de Zaframagon (E 5). However, note that, although wholly in Seville province, Lagunas de Lebrija (NW 7) are covered in the main section since they're only c3 km over the border from Lagunas de Espera. Similarly sites in the Alcornocales & Grazalema which are just over the border in Malaga Province are treated in the main section: Sauceda (E2.3) which can only be reached via Cadiz province and Llanos de Libar (E4) which is a natural progression from sites in Cadiz. Note, however, that although I regularly visit Osuna /Lantejuela and Lebrija, my visits to elsewhere in Seville are less frequent so notes on these areas are updated less often. The same applies to sites in Malaga (other than those in Alcornocales & Grazalema Natural Parks) and Gibraltar. Feedback on all of these sites would be particularly appreciated.
i) Seville Province If flying into Seville Airport several of these sites can make a convenient detour en route to Cadiz province. A minor, but newly upgraded and very good road, connects Osuna with the Grazalema area. A new motorway is currently under construction a few km east of Seville airport which will avoid Seville’s busy ring road making the journey
south less tiresome. Ultimately it will provide a much faster route over the Guadalquivir and into the Coto Donaña.
See also comments introduction to this section.
SV 1 – * Lebrija Area Why visit? – Another site for the adventurously minded ….. with an outside chance of Pintailed Sandgrouse é - paths unsuitable, but you can view over much of the area from the track The drive along the Guadalquivir (d, e & g) can hardly be claimed to explore any primary birding sites (although (g) has turned up rarities), but it's a very pleasant drive with a good mix of birds, some great views and links with a visit to NW.2. It’s also a good alternative route to back from Brazo del Este (SV 2) further north (which, if visiting that area is your aim, is better accessed via the motorway). There have also been reports of Pin-tailed Sandgrouse nearby (see a & b) here (see also NW 2.6). One area that looks suitable for this species off the A471 here extends for just over 2km along the route approximately around the 34 km post (a). As you reach this area (c600m from the last exit for Trebujena) there’s a small track on you left and another c2.5 km further along at the end of the area (opposite a light industrial estate); unfortunately the newly improved A471 has few places to safely pull off and can be busy with fast moving traffic pulling off onto these tracks is the best option. A rough track parallel to the main road should allow safe viewing on foot. This stretch can be good for Pratincoles, Gull-billed Tern and Flamingo (when wet). Look out for a small bridge across the agricultural canal (c4km from Trebujena turning, c600m from exit for Lebrija) which connects to the network of roads/tracks that fan out west and north of Lebrija (b). Indicate well in advance and take care when turning here as motorists have overtaken me here as I was about to turn presumably assuming that I was signalling to let them get past. (Dangerously, indicating left can be assumed to be an invitation to overtake!) Turn north-west across the bridge where to the left onto a good dirt track takes you, after c2km, to a point (c) where you can overlook the same area as from (a) from the north. You can continue along this track as it follows a large drainage ditch until it reaches the Guadalquivir (marked by two white towers). If you turn left along the river in c300m you reach NW 2.5 (i); turn right to explore (d, e & g). If, however, you turn right after leaving the A 471, a good tarmac one which connects you to the track along the Guadalquivir. The track along the Guadalquivir (d, e & g) is of variable quality – for the most part it’s a decent tarmac or good gravel road, but elsewhere it’s potholed. I have not fully explored the final stretch south into Cadiz Province (and to NW 2 Sanlucar area) seems less potholed than previously and might pity as this would be a great route. The shady route along the Guadalquivir holds few surprises (egrets, Squacco & Purple Herons, terns, Pratincole, Spanish Sparrow, etc), but makes for a very pleasant drive. At La Señuela (e) a small chapel, bedecked with storks nests, is
famously photogenic. Continue along the track for Brazo del Este or alternatively tack the track south (lined with palms) towards Lebrija (f). This links to the new bypass (via a slight lefthand ‘dogleg’) which then passes the ‘Balse de Melendo’ (h). This a fairly new reservoir can attract good numbers of birds although mainly of the commoner species (e.g. 2009 – 1200 Shoveler [Nov], 4500+ Mallard (NovDec], 250+ Red-crested Pochard [Nov], 75 Spoonbill [July]and 1400+ White Stork [Dec]). However, it may be worth a quick look. Finally to the north-east of Lebrija the road running from Marismilla towards the Guadalquivir is flanked by an old channel which can be good for Pratincoles, larks, pipits, etc - and possibly sandgrouse. Eventually you reach a channel where you can turn right for Brazo del Este (SV2) or left to head back along the track beside the Guadalquivir. When you reach the river there’s a small rustic venta and, opposite, a shallow sandy pool (“Laguna Venta la Señuela”) bordering the river (g). Although somewhat unprepossessing in summer 2011 this site produced American Golden Plover, Pectoral Sandpiper and Temminck’s Stint; evidently in the right conditions it is used as a wader roost, but conditions vary annually. Access – Take tracks off the A471 from (b) as described. Approaching from the north on the A471 take the new ‘bypass’ which is signposted for the industrial estate (poligono). If arriving from the Brazo del Este simply folly tracks/roads bordering the Guadalquivir to (e).
SV 2 - *** Brazo del Este - overview Why visit? – A good site for raptors, Marbled Duck, all herons, wetland warblers (inc. Savi’s Warbler), Spanish Sparrow & introduced weavers; good record for rarities
é - most birding from a good drivable track "Where to Watch birds in Donana" by Chiclana & Garzon gives an excellent, detailed account of this area. This is a very useful book & you should have a copy if you plan a visit. However, but it’s a bit vague about how different routes fit together – something I have tried to address here. Although said by some to be the equal of (or superior to) the Coto Donana for birds, this site seems to divide birders since it is rather dull scenically with much flat agricultural land and, when the conditions aren’t favourable (i.e. too dry), it may have relatively little wet habitats. However, when it is sufficiently wet to hold waders and ducks it can be superb. It is especially good for Marbled Teal, Savi’s Warbler, crakes and introduced exotics (Yellow-headed Weaver, Yellow-crowned Bishop and Waxbill). I always arrive from the south, but if heading for Corta de los Olivillos and the northern part of Brazo del Este it is probably better to approach via La Mermandal (see the Where to Watch birds in Doñana ). Orientation - as you enter the area (a) the rice paddies can be excellent. For sites (b), (c), (d) & (e) see below (note that I’ve yet to explore this areain detail). Site (f) is ‘Laguna de la Mejorada’ (see SV1 Map 60). For descriptive purposes I have divided these into three sections – ‘the southern marshes’ and ’the northern marshes’ (an entirely arbitrary
division as they pretty much run into one another) and ‘Corta de los Olivillos’. The latter is a distinct area isolated from the ‘real’ Brazo del Este by a canal. Access – Head through Las Cabezas on the A471 going straight on through a number of roundabout. As you run downhill continue on the A471 (ignore turning on roundabout for the A371) until almost out of the town where you bear right off the main road towards the motorway & railway station. Negotiate a new roundabout by the station and head towards a large silo. Head straight on to the rice depot (see below). I have not yet explored from the north but following signs to Pinzon should do the trick! (see also SV3)
SV 2.1 – *** The ‘southern’ marshes Why visit? – A good site for raptors, Marbled Duck, all herons, wetland warblers (inc. Savi’s Warbler), Spanish Sparrow & introduced weavers. é - most birding from good drivable tracks After crossing the canal (a) swing left then right passing the rice depot to reach the main track. The first wet area is at (b) but there are better areas further on. A small area of marsh soon appears on the right, but your attention is quickly drawn to a larger marshy area on the right (c) – Capitán- formed an old meander. This is good for all expected marshland warblers & herons. A little further on the meander lives up to its name by swinging over to the right hand side of the main track. Follow smaller track (perfectly drivable) towards Pinzon to get good views of this area (d) which seems particularly good for Savi’s Warbler (although they are quite common anywhere along the main track). The rough track that follows the curve of the old river is part of an official ‘ornithological cycle route’ (see Google Earth) and, whilst unsuitable for motor traffic, the energetic could profitably follow this back to the ‘main’ track (at La Margazuela). In the right conditions this area holds many Whiskered Tern, waders and duck. As you continue along the ‘main track’ the marshy arm of the old river reappears on the right and forms a very nice marsh (e) The tracks here form a drivable triangle round a superb area for on your left; this is often very good for Purple Heron, Whiskered Terns, etc. Having exhausted the possibilities here, continue a short distance to the next large marshy area (f) - now on your left. There’s a small ‘pumping house’ on the right. The triangular route back to the ‘muro’ encloses a superb little marsh which not only has a raucous Whiskered Tern colony, but is also the most reliable spot for Squacco Heron (in case you’ve
missed them so far!) and a good bet for both Spanish Sparrows and Marbled Duck. The cycle route (g) round a long looping meander may be worth a walk. (I’ve no idea how drivable it is in the later stages). For (h) (i), (j) & (k) see below. Access – See map & access details above.
SV 2.2 – ** The ‘northern’ marshes – see Map 63 (h) (i), (j) & (k) Why visit? – A good site for raptors, Marbled Duck, all herons, wetland warblers (etc.) é - most birding from good drivable tracks After the small “pumping house” (see Map 63 & notes above) there’s something of an ornithological hiatus since the marshy arm of the old river swings well away to the west and there’s a stretch of somewhat dull farmland. This is, and the next site (SV2.2), are areas that I do not know, but have added for the sake of completeness. As the ‘main track’ swings right, you bounce down to the left to cross the dry bed of the canal (Caño de la Vera). The track you need to take to visit (h) (i), (j) & (k) runs along the northern levee of this prominent geographical feature (which eventually reaches Los Palacios). One diversion worth exploring is to turn left here and to stay on the cycle route. This route soon turns both to the left and to the right; to the left it follows a marshy arm of the river back to the ‘pumping house’ and to the right it passes another marshy area before joining the nearby SE 685. I have yet to explore the two routes which, may or may not, be drivable. However, the easiest route, once across the canal bed, is to turn right along the top of the levee towards Los Palacios. After a little under 2 km (1.78 km if you’re a pedant!) turn left onto a track run due north (this also marks a change in the orientation of the fields along this track which, hitherto, run NW/SE). After 1½ km, the road gets bored with being straight so wiggles the next 2 km to the (thankfully) metalled SE 685. At the junction with the SE 685 stands a collection of agricultural buildings - the Mediterráno Algodon. It is worth exploring the small wooded area immediately to the north of this junction as it is a good site for birds which might otherwise be missed – Hoopoe, Golden Oriole, woodland/scrub loving warblers and is said to be one of the best places in the area for Roller. Stay into the evening and you may get Red-necked Nightjar and even a calling Eagle Owl (see Chiclana & Garzon for details). However, marshland addicts will want to turn left towards the river which is reached in about 2.5 km and then south along its bank for another 700m to explore Condé Chico - the last arm of the Brazo del Este on this itinerary. This walk is good for all marshland species, but particularly our webbed footed brethren. Access – See Map 59 & access details above.
SV 2.3 – ** Corta de los Olivillos– see Map 63 (k) Why visit? – A good site for herons and other wetland species. é - rough tracks not suitable for wheelchairs, but many birds visible from the road.. To reach this final area head north along the SE 685 towards La Hermandal (unless you’re driving south, in which case you’ve just been there!). Just under 4 km from Mediterráno Algodon (or 1 km from last houses in La Hermandal) turn north-west towards Coria del Rio (which is c6km via ferry cross the Guadalquivir). After 1 km cross the canal and turn left along its western bank onto a good tarmac road. After following the canal for about 4 km, the road declares its independence by turning sharp right along tree lined avenue, after another kilometre the road swings left and, about 2 km from the canal, the tarmac gives way to gravel.
Evidently, this causes the road to loose confidence since it now starts heading back towards the canal which it reaches in a further 2½ km. At the canal turn right and afterc1km you reach the marshy cut-off that isolates the small island (Corta de los Olivillos) at the end of this peninsular. This area is (again according to the must buy Chiclana & Garzon) has one of the largest heronries in the Coto. Naturally, is good for all manner of marshland birds. As noted previously a ferry can take you over the Guadalquivir to Coria del Rey and the Isla Minima. Howver, a motorway is underconstruction which will link Coria to the E5 motorway (Seville – Granada) just east of Seville airport forming a huge ‘southern ring road’. Access: see Map 63 & access details above.
SV3 - *** Laguna de la Mejorada (aka - "Lago de Diego Puerta") Why visit? – Probably the easiest and most reliable site for Rufous Bushchat and Olivaceous Warbler. - é - good tracks take you right up to the site. This lagoon, just north of Los Palacios y Villafranca, is the best know site in the area for both (Western) Olivaceous Warbler and Rufous Bushchat. Most visitors seem to plough through Los Palacios, which can be heavily congested, to reach the laguna, but a better alternative is to skirt the town on good minor roads and track (see map & ‘Access’). The canal (d & e) often attracts Collared Pratincoles in summer and the market gardens overlooked from the embankment may hold Rufous Bushchat . It is worth exploring this route along the canal both by going right under the motorway and towards Utrera as well as the more usual route to the laguna on the left. After less than 1km along the track the tamarisk clogged lake is obvious on the left – take first the track & park in the corner of the lagoon at (f). Alternatively, continue along the track towards (a) and park wherever there’s space. The lake has egrets, Little Bittern and Squacco Heron. The tamarisks have Common Waxbills, both Melodious and Olivaceous Warbler. (I had 7+ singing birds from (f) corner in May 2009). From (f) walk along the track towards Los Palacios for a short distance to a ‘drive’ guarded by iron gates (g)- I’ve found looking down this drive the easiest way to find the Rufous Bushchats. However, they’ve been seen at various points here (and across the NIV). They are best located by their song as they can be elusive (esp. after mid-day). In winter the laguna hosts a large heron roost. Since this is a small and compact site, it makes a good detour when visiting Brazo del Este (SV 2) and the Seville farmlands (SV 5, SV 6 & SV 7). Access: Approaching from north on the N IV take a track on your right immediately after crossing a small canal (a on map look for the blue railings of the bridge just before a large sign for the exit to Los Palacios). Arriving from the south on E5 cross the motorway to head towards Los Palacios and then take the second exit at the roundabout (b) onto the Avenida de Dolores Ibarruri (first exit if arriving from the north). Ignore a couple of right turns, but then go right towards two white gate posts (c). A narrow lane runs parallel to the E5 until it reaches a small canal. Turn left along a track following the canal (e) until you reach a shrubbery surround laguna. Turn down the track to (f). [Although this route seems somewhat convoluted, it avoids the centre of Los Palacios which can be congested and gets you into ‘birdable’ areas more quickly].
SV 4 - * Lagunas de Utrera Why visit? – Although often dry, these lakes are reputed to have many of the species found at better known sites (i.e.l Laguna de Medina). If time is short having a look may be an option if you want to avoid driving down to Jerez. é - not ideal - rather distant scope views. This complex of three lagunas - Lagunas Arjona (a), Alcaparrosa (b) and de Zarracatín (c) - is located around the village of Palmar de Troya (bizarrely the home of a schismatic Catholic sect whose concrete “cathedral” dominates the village). All may be dry in the summer and a number of surrounding lagoons have disappeared entirely. Laguna Arjona, the first you reach as you come from the N IV (opposite a new petrol station), looks promising, but is virtually completely hidden in a fold in the hills apparently without a connecting path. Laguna Alcaparrosa (on the left as you approach Palmar de Troya) is no more than a small reedy pool, but may be worth investigation. From a passing car I’ve noted Whiskered Terns and good numbers of Coot . You should be able to pull by an entrance near a large building to the south from where you could walk back along the road to investigate (but exercise great caution as the road can be busy – if possible walk on the inside of the crash barrier). Laguna de Zarracatín - The only other remaining lake is ten times the size of the others, but has much less vegetation round its perimeter. In winter the lagunas may attract Shoveler, Wigeon and Pochard. Whiteheaded Duck, Purple Gallinule, Flamingo, Purple Heron, Whiskered Tern, Gull-billed Tern, etc are said to occur. On my only visit (May 2009) Zarracatín had 330+ Flamingos and Whiskered Tern. Despite the assertion that there are some hides at Zarracatin, I never found them (though I had little time) and viewed distantly from the main track. If your Spanish is up to it try asking at the nearby finca for access. This area seems little visited presumably as nearby sites (e.g. Brazo del Este) offer more variety, but may be worth checking out if heading south on the N-IV from Los Palacios. Follow the SE 9015 for 4.5 km from La Troya to explore the Embalse Torre del Aguila (possibly the cause of the disappearance of surrounding lagunas). It has stands of tamarisk which probably hold Olivaceous Warbler and the surrounding habitat may also hold Rufous Bushchat. This area seems little visited presumably as nearby sites (e.g. Brazo del Este) offer more variety, but may be worth checking out if heading south on the N-IV from Los Palacios. Access – Turn off the A394 onto the SE9015, but almost at once take the first right onto a village road running south parallel with the A394. After c250m turn left (where the tarmac runs out) and then immediately right. After c500m the road becomes a dirt track. The laguna is c2km further on your right. Nearby the Embalse Torre del Aguila (possibly the cause of the disappearance of surrounding lagunas) can be reached by continuing through the village on the SE9015 for c4.7 km and then turn left onto the SE9016. Follow this for c2km - after you pass the Torre del Aguila the road turns sharp right to the reservoir.
SV 5 – ** Steppe farmlands of eastern Seville The best area here are the open fields around Osuna and, to the north, the lagunas/steppe around La Lantejuela. This, the OsunaEcija steppe, is one of the last strongholds of Great Bustard in Andalucia with over 160 birds present. There are also c1,000 Little Bustards, over 200 Stone-curlew, c20 pairs of Montagu's Harrier, at least a dozen Black-winged Kite and hundreds of Collared Pratincole. Bonelli's and Spanish Imperial Eagle are also present in winter. El Arahal area is less good for bustards, but is reckoned to have a population of Rufous Bushchat.
SV 5.1 – ** El Arahal – Marchena - Carmona Triangle Why visit? The area has Great & Little Bustard, Roller, Olivaceous Warbler & Spanish Sparrow, but is little visited by foreign birders – your chance to explore! é - all birding from good drivable tracks This area of farmland is not one that I have fully explored, but has a reputation as being a good area for Rufous Bushchat (as does La Puebla de Cazalla further east off the A 92). Although the Osuna area (SV5.1) seems more reliable, both Great and Little Bustards have been seen from the A 8100 south from Carmona. However, Collared Pratincoles, Montagu’s Harrier and Lesser Kestrel are more likely. (Note for ‘culture vultures’ Carmona is a ‘must visit Andalucian town). Off the A 380, the SE 5200 heads to El Palomar where I’ve seen Roller a number of times. Also on the A380 check the area where the road crosses the Rio Carbones (c5km north of Marchena) for Olivaceous Warbler and Spanish Sparrow. Off the A 634 – Ecija road the A 407 to Fuentes de Andalucia passes through another good area for harriers, Rollers and probably bustards. All local towns have a population of Lesser Kestrels and Iberian Grey Shrike is widespread. Note that it’s painfully easy to get lost in Arahal and that the motorway is poorly signposted here. Feed back on this area would be much appreciated! NOTE: nearby Ecija is not called the 'frying pan of Spain' for nothing - beware of extreme heat in summer months. Access – Explore the roads noted above pulling off where you can to check promising habitat. Also explore any minor roads/drivable tracks in the area.
SV 5.2 – *** Osuna Farmlands (east of Seville) Why visit? – The nearest reliable site to Cadiz province for Great Bustard & Black-bellied Sandgrouse (very scarce); also Little Bustard, Roller, Olivaceous Warbler & Spanish Sparrow. é - all birding from good drivable tracks
Osuna is about an hour from Olvera (at the north-eastern corner of Cadiz province via the A384 (CA9107) which can be slow, but the brand new A451 north across to Osuna (via El Saucejo) is a good fast, near deserted road. From elsewhere in the province it can be a 2 hour drive (or more). This makes a great day out birding.
In winter expect bands of both Great and Little Bustard, Griffon Vulture, Red Kite, Blackwinged Kite, the odd Black Kite(more of which will arrive in February), Marsh and Hen Harrier, Iberian Grey Shrikes, Calandra Lark, Spanish Sparrow plus, with luck, Black-bellied Sandgrouse. (Note – the best fields for bustards and sandgrouse may change according to season and land use). Whilst the Hen Harriers and most of the Red Kites disappear in spring, other species remain with their numbers supplemented by the arrival of Stone-curlew, Collared Pratincole, Gull-billed Tern, Montagu's Harrier, Lesser Kestrel, etc. Later in spring look for Roller hawking from wires and pylons and Olivaceous Warbler in the riverine tamarisk scrub. Rufous Bush Chat might to occur in the general area too – any reports would be very welcome! The directions that follow assume an approach from Exit 80 off the A 92, but can be easily reinterpreted (via the map) to suit an approach from elsewhere. Take the exit towards Osuna, but turn off onto a minor road behind a venta and petrol station towards a collection of warehouses (“poligono”). Take care as this is an awkward badly marked junction. This newly metalled road (SE 715) follows along beside the railway line. The track bed of a proposed fast ‘AVE’ service which, apparently, has now abandoned, is crossed by a series of high bridges (reached via tall embankments) which make view across field for bustards much easier. (It remains to be seen what use is made of the track – it would be an excellent walking/cycling route!). The SE 715 crosses the first bridge (c4 km from the A 92); pull off and walk up towards the bridge. I have seen both Little and Great Bustard from here. A second bridge (b) is c2km further on and is accessed by a track the swings off to the left just before the bridge itself. In 2011 6-7 male Little Bustards displayed in the fields next to the first embankment – listen for the raspberry call. In February 2013 a flock of c40 Great Bustards could be viewed from the far side of the bridge. The track across form here to track 'd' (see map) is very poor and only walkable unless in a 4x4; take care, though, not to disturb the bustards by approaching too closely. Another c2.5 km further on go under a third bridge and then turn left up to some ruined fincas (c) – the home of Lesser Kestrels, Little Owl and often Hoopoe. Panoramic views here (particularly from the track to the right) make a it a good point to scan for bustards. Montagu’s Harrier, Black-winged Kite, Collared Pratincoles and Gull-billed Tern can all be seen here. Head back towards the SE 715 to cross the bridge onto an excellent track (d) which eventually reaches the SE 710 (A 407) via a ford (sometimes tricky in very wet weather). With good views over suitable habitat this is another good spot for both bustards, Calandra Lark and Iberian Grey Shrike plus the species notes above. The area on the far side of the SE 710 is crossed by tracks (e) of variable quality, but can make a good route to site SV 7 (Lagunas de Lantejuela). Once again the young olive groves here hold Iberian Grey Shrike whilst the trees round the old fincas may have Spanish Sparrow (a roost of c100 winter 2013) The fields along the SE 710 may have Great and Little Bustards (e.g a flock of 70 + Great Bustards towards Osuna in winter 2012/13 and 10+ near 10 km post in Feb. 2013), but there are few places to pull off this often busy road; a farm entrance near the 4km marker and a track near the 14km one have offer views over suitable habitat. A minor road, the SE 716 links the SE 710 back to the SE 715 running along beside the railway. The whole of the SE 716 has good views across farmland. Check the wires and pylons along this road for Iberian Grey Shrike and, in spring/summer, Roller. About 1 km along the road, near some farm buildings, a good track (f) runs south across the fields - check for bustards, Stone-curlews etc. Iberian Grey Shrike often perch on the telegraph wires along the SE 716 and, in spring/summer is often joined by Roller, Just over 2 km beyond the buildings and track, where the road zig-zags sharply turn off to the right (north). This takes you onto another track, the “Vereda del Alamillo' (g). The trees here may hold Melodious Warbler and Golden Oriole, the small reedbed Great-reed Warblers and commoner herons whilst the olive groves have more Iberian Grey Shrike and Spanish Sparrow. The ruins nearby have breeding Lesser Kestrels and the ubiquitous Little Owl. Continue along the 'verada' (ignore the gated track to your right) and after c1 km you reach a new and very prominent white tower. This recently built structure is essentially an overgrown 'nest-box' for Lesser Kestrels. The track here becomes a little rutted so proceed with care of park and continue on foot. Check the fields to your left for both bustards and Black-bellied
Sandgrouse (esp. in winter). After c2km you reach a ruined finca – this is a particularly good spot for Rollers, Little Owl, Hoopoe, etc. Also look out here for Black-winged Kite. Return to where the 'verada' leaves the SE 716 to walk c250m back towards the SE 715 where a rough track on the bend heads off to the south-east and into the fields. The large stony field here regularly attracts Black-bellied Sandgrouse (e.g. c12 birds wintered here In 2012/2013). The bridge over the railway just before the junction is good but usually less productive than the other options here. If the fields near the junction are flooded they may attract Black-winged Stilt, Collared Pratincole and Gull-billed Tern. Turning north-west along the SE 715 the road is flanked by open cereal fields which I've found relatively unproductive. However, you might try looking along the track towards yet another bridge over the railway (see map). The road eventually drops down towards the Laguna de los Ojuelos (h) – unfortunately the wetter areas of this site are beyond the railway on a very private bull rearing estate so can only be distantly scoped. However, note that a birding tourism company - http://therealbirdwatching.com/ - has negotiated access to this estate and has photography hides here and elsewhere in the area. Even without access if wet, you should pick up Flamingo and Black-winged Stilt here, but distance makes identifying other wading birds a challenge. An interesting area of halophytic vegetation by a small bridge here has attracted Roller, Collared Pratincole, Lesser Kestrel and Blackbellied Sandgrouse (a flock of 18 were seen nearby in March 2012 and the birds have been photographed from the hide mentioned above). in the past. However, in February 2013 it had been ploughed up and planted with crops despite the nearby finca having signs advertising its collaboration with the programme for the conservation of steppe birds). On reaching the SE 7201 a rutted track continues to run parallel to the railway which may be worth exploring, but turn right (north) to reach the junction with the SE 7200. Turn left for Marchena (see SV 5) or right to La Lantejuela (SV 7). If heading towards Marchena on the SE 7200 stop after c1 km and pull off to the right (north); there's a short signposted nature trail here and a watch tower (i). Continue another c5 km along this road until the road crosses the railway and then the Rio Carbones (j). The scrub here has Olivaceous Warblers and Spanish Sparrow (but this probably applies to all such scrub in the area!) and check the pylons for Roller.. The fields another c1 km towards Marchena can be Collared Pratincoles and, if you’re lucky, Little Bustard. A Long-legged Buzzard has also been noted here. Although a longish jaunt this could be combined with an early morning trip to Laguna de la Mejorada and late afternoon/evening searches for steppe birds. It is also worth considering combining this area with a visit to Laguna de Piedra (a regular site for Lesser Flamingo) although it’s long haul the motorway is conveniently placed for a quick trip. Ideally stay over in one of the local towns for an early start. Osuna has a ‘must-see’ collection of stunning Renaissance buildings – so, naturally, most birders give it a miss! The drive south from here is a superb way to enter the Grazalema Natural Park (A451). Access: Follow a variety of well signed routes towards Marchena or Osuna. Access along the track following the new AVE line has been difficult in the past, but now seems fine. Many drivable farm track criss-cross the area.
SV 5.3 – *** La Lantejuela Area Why visit? – after a wet winter these lakes can be alive with ducks (inc. White-headed), terns and waders and the surrounding farmland has bustards. Also you can support a nascent ormithological tourism industry. é - Most birds can be seen from good drivable tracks/roads Following a dry winter this site can be bone dry and birdless, when it's been wet they can be stuffed with birds. The village has also hosted a modest ‘bird fair’ and there are plans to develop ornitho-tourism here. Despite this they are still threatened by agricultural development so the presence of visiting birders may may do some good. As suggested by the above account these lakes often dry out in summer or even remain dry throughout the winter – hence most ‘lagunas’ have the alternative name ‘hoya’ (= depression). Laguna del Gobierno (a) off Avenida de la Vereda de la Huerta in the village is an exception
as it seems, in part, to be an old water treatment works. This site has some basic hides, but permission to visit the reserve is needed (contact: info@birding sevilla.com ) although most birds of interest can be seen from the road or the top of a flat roofed white building in a small compound. In 2013 this site had 15 pairs of White-headed Duck (raising 56 ducklings) making it one of Andalucia's best sites for this species. Also present in 2013 was a heronry with Cattle Egret (200 pairs), Night Heron (30 pairs), Squacco Heron (3 pairs) and Glossy Ibis (1 pair) plus breeding Blacknecked Grebe and Red-crested Pochard.
A signposted 'Ornithological Route' starts just beyond the Laguna de Gobierno and gives a good chance of seeing some 'steppe birds' (both bustards, Collared Pratincoles, Montagu's Harrier). The route follows the righthand fork from the end of the tarmac road, past a track to a local tip on the right and down towards a Tjunction. This route gives excellent views across the 'campo' At the T-junction go right and then after a few hundred metres turn right again towards an isolated farmhouse. After the farmhouse the track get rougher but the SE 708 (b) can be reached with care (see map). It is also worth following the SE 700 towards Fuentes de Andalucia as in summer Roller often perch on the pylons/wires along this route. A track on the right (c4km north of La Lantejuela) appears to link up with those near the laguna and may be worth exploring. Initially it follows a well vegetated canal which should attract passerines. Taking the SE 708 west from La Lantejuela towards for El Rubio, after about 2.5 km from the village a good track runs across the farmlands on your right – apparently part of the plans to encourage ‘eco-tourism’ . After c700m you get a view across Laguna/Hoya de la Verde Sal (b) which, I suspect is more ‘hoya’ than ‘laguna’ since even in what seems a wet year it was dry. (According to one source a sendero passes to the west of the hoya to reach Laguna de Pedro Lopez). Look for Stone Curlew here and the habitat looks good for Blackbellied Sandgrouse (although rare in this general area). The track passing Verde Sal continues to give good views of Laguna Ballestera (c) which is also viewable from the SE 708 (although parking along the road is limited). Unlike the access to this track further along the SE 708 there are no restrictive notices coming from this direction (although if the water level in the laguna is high further progress along the track is impossible). Take care not to spook the birds which can be very close to the shore here. Ballestera often has several hundred Flamingos, but also check carefully for Lesser Flamingo which has occurred several times. Four Ruddy Shelduck were also present in the winter of 2012/2013. Many Ruff and other waders, Whiskered Tern, ducks (inc. Red-crested Pochard and Whiteheaded), Black-necked Grebe and numerous Coots present. Both Montagu’s Harrier and Lesser Kestrel are common and Black-winged Kite has now colonised the area. The track behind Laguna Ballestera rejoins the SE 708 about 1km further west (e). There's a large sign
here showing a walking route to Laguna Pedro de Lopez (f) which, if wet, holds those species already noted for more accessible lagunas. (This noticeboard is flanked by an old notice suggesting this is a ‘restricted military area'; obviously you can walk this route, but it's unclear whether you can drive along it). This should be more accessible from (c) assuming the water level is not too high. Note that walking to this laguna is not advised during the heat of the summer. Back on the SE 708 there's a T-junction just after you pass Laguna Ballestera where, by going north, on the SE 705 you pass Laguna Consuegra (d). In wet springs the junction may overlook flooded fields which can have good numbers of Lapwing, Black-winged Stilt and Gull-billed Terns.The laguna itself, accessed by a rough track running along its eastern rim, holds many of the species noted under Ballestera (inc. vagrant Lesser Flamingo). Back on the now familiar SE 708 continue towards El Rubio. In spring 2011 there was a large distant flooded area to the north of the road which was packed with Flamingos and waders (inc. Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Dunlins, etc). However, although probably always 'damp' this area is not always flooded. Roughly 10 km after leaving the La Lantejuela you reach the A 351 (Ecija-Osuna road) and with it the Hoya/Laguna de la Turquillas (g). Although often dry and when wet clogged with reeds, it attracts dozens of Whiskered, and a few Black Terns, Squacco Heron, Purple Gallinule and White-headed Ducks. Marbled Duck sometimes appear here so scan carefully. (Note that parking here can be tricky). The warm tarmac road tempt Collared Pratincole. to rest perilously. Purple Heron & Little Bittern breed. Evidently a sendero (footpath) skirts the edge of the laguna towards the Lagunas de Calderon (h). There are two Lagunas de Calderon – Chica and Grande. The tiny Laguna de Calderon Chica tends to be the wetter of the two and presumably has many of the same species as Laguna de la Turquillas. Immediately to the south is the larger neighbour Laguna de Calderon Grande. However, whilst it has a greater surface area than its near name sake, it’s much shallower and more often deserves to be called a ‘hoya’. Once more pulling off the road here is tricky, but alt least there’s a track you could pull onto at its southern end. There is a car park between Lagunas Turquillas & Chica, but the gate here is often padlocked and evidently access is not generally allowed. (Touristic developments here may improve matters although the nearest Tourist Information Office in Osuna seemed to know little about the current situation). Anywhere along the A 351 has the potential to turn up Great or Little Bustards, but finding somewhere safe to pull over is always problematical (although I’m probably more cautious than some). The best areas look to be to the west left 5-6 km north of the junction of the SE 708/A 351. To the east, set amongst distant hills tantalisingly shimmering in the heat c1.5 - 2 km from the road lies the Laguna Ruiz Sanchez (j); once the largest lake (356 hectares) in the complex and the second largest in Andalucia – only Fuente de Piedra was larger. Previously home to Marbled, Ferruginous & White-headed Ducks and Crested Coot, the laguna was drained in 1967. However, it was purchased by the Andalucian junta (for 6 million €) in 2006. In 2009 an ambitious restoration project began to increase water flow into the laguna's basin which involving building two small dams, several culverts and diverting stream. A rough track on the A 351 by the 14 km post (i.e. c3 km north of Laguna de la Turquillas) runs uphill to a small farm building (c1 km) and then drops down towards the laguna. This is drivable with care in summer, but may be too badly rutted in a wet winter. The edge of the laguna (if wet!) is c500m from the track and greater elevation permits improved views across to the centre of the laguna. The track turns up towards a couple of fincas and may allow more access (esp on foot). A winter visit, track allowing, should be excellent with Peregrine, Merlin, Bonelli's Eagle and Cranes joining the wintering wildfowl. The local community is now growing aware of the potential of eco-tourism. In 2010 the complex was awarded a grant of 600,000€ to develop a visitors’ centre and encourage birdwatching (although this seems to have been spent on leaflets rather than infrastructure). However, the area continues to be threatened by agricultural development so the presence of visiting birders may may do some good (esp. if they spend money in local ventas!)
For further details see - http://lantejuelaturismorural.blogspot.com/ possible to organise a guided tour of some sites.
- via which it might be
Note - the only laguna in the complex I can’t find is the Laguna de Cantera Romana – let me know if you find it!
Access – Explore the roads noted above pulling off where you can to check promising habitat. Also explore any minor roads/drivable tracks in the area.
ii) Malaga See also comments introduction to this section.
* M1 – Casares – Rio Genal, Sierras de la Utrera & Crestellina Why visit? – a convenient stop if heading from Malaga to Gaucin & Grazalema – Golden Eagle, Whiterumped Swift & Black Wheatear é - Casares is steep, but good views from mirador and from road to Gaucin. Just off the AP 7 toll road, the Sierra de la Utrera makes an excellent quick stop for species like Black-eared & Black Wheatear and Blue Rockthrush. The rock formations here are also known as the Torcalito del Manilva (or Utrera) being reminscent, although on a much smaller scale of El Torcal. A minor road running besides and then under the AP 7 takes you to a stream (c1 km) along which a track heads north. Paths from here take you into good habitat for Blue Rockthrush and both wheatears.. Two tracks off the A 377 (c3 km and c4.5 km from the quarry) also take you up to paths into good habitat During passage, the drive up to Casares on the A 377 can produce a good range of raptors with including Honey Buzzard, Short-toed and Booted Eagle, Black Kite, etc. The route up from the coast passes a large wind farm – check the grassy areas here for Tawny Pipit (c). Turn right for Casares (d) check with the visitors' centre – on your right as you enter the village – for walking routes up the to ridge. Casares is an attractive 'pueblo blanco' with an old castle perched above the village – a site for the elusive Whiterumped Swift. (along with Common, Pallid and Alpine), Lesser Kestrel and sometimes Black Wheatear. Explore the MA 8300 west for raptors and passerines. Driving towards Gaucin on the A 377, the impressive crags of the Sierra Crestellina (d) appear on your right – stop and scan here for Raven, Chough, Griffon Vulture, Bonelli's and, with luck, Golden Eagle. Egyptian Vulture are seen on passage, but are apparently extinct as breeding birds in
Malaga Province. Thekla Lark are common along the roadside, but also check for Rock Bunting and Rock Sparrow. The road then weaves its way through scrubby habitats and down to the Rio Genal (check for Rock Bunting and Rock Sparrow). Immediately after crossing the bridge, turns sharp right along a rough track down to the river (e). This is an idyllic spot and one that's often good for Golden Oriole and passage migrants (e.g. Redtart, Pied Flycatcher). Access – Casares is well signposted off the coastal motor-way (E15/A7) near Maniliva. Similarly, the village is well signposted south from Gaucin. See above for access to the sierras.
* M2 – Rio Guadalhorce Why visit? – a convenient stop for wetland species (often inc. White-headed Duck) near Malaga airport. Good track record for scarcities and rarities.
é - Hides on the reserve, but track rough and uneven. NOTE: - This site has rightly gained a notorious reputation for thefts from cars – particularly hire cars (often identified by stickers). Avoid parking near the bridge into the reserve. Minimise the risk further by parking in more busy and populated parts of Guadalmar even if it means a longer walk. Local birders suggest parking near the church or school (see map). Try to leave nothing of value in the car (removing parcel shelf to demonstrate the fact), leave open an empty glovebox and remove hire car stickers.
You can always go elsewhere since the reserve rarely has anything not found at other sites.
Being less than 10 minutes from Malaga airport this is a popular stop on arrival or before departures (but see the warning above). Being one of the few wetland sites along this coast it is also popular with local birdwatchers and accordingly, being so well watched, has a good track record for turning up rare or scarce birds. Each of the four main pools on the reserve – Laguna Escondida a), Laguna de la Casilla (b), Rio Viejo (c) and Laguna Grande (d) – have hides (rather roofed screens). Seawatching is possible from (e) although the small pier/slipway on the other side of the river to the north should be better. Wetland species such as Flamingo, Night Heron, Purple Gallinule, Kentish Plover are present all year and are joined in the breeding season by Little Bittern, Squacco Heron, Little Ringed Plover. Hoopoe, Pallid Swift, Great Reed Warbler also present. During passage a wide range of raptors, waders, terns and gulls (inc. Audouin's) can be expected. Beeeaters and many species of passerine pass through.
Access: - take Exit 3 off the MA 20 for Guadalmar. If arriving from the airport take road over the MA 21 and then turn off to the left for San Julian (near a soft drinks depot). In the village go left (signposted for Guadalmar) and into the resrt. (NB – if you miss the turn, head north on the MA 21 and then back south on the MA 20). The reserve can be reached on public transport (via Guadalmar) by bus from Malaga (no 5 from the Almeda Principal or No 10 from the raileway station -10-20 minutes - fare1-2 €).
iii) G1 - Gibraltar Why visit? – Barbary Partridge, raptor migration and a ‘Brit fix’!
é - notoriously steep so not the best place for wheelchairs although taxis or chairlift can take you high onto the Rock. Gibraltar has the advantage of hosting mainland Europe's only Barbary Partridge and an English speaking population of birdwatchers. Unfortunately, due to development and a lack of environmental protection by the government, the population of partridges had plummeted to single figures by 2014 rendering the species very difficult to see. However, in March 2015 around 200
partridges were reintroduced to various areas (inc. Windmill Hill, Upper Rock fire breaks and near Bruce’s Farm) although it remains to be seen if this will be a long term solution without other conservation measures. Whether they're still ethically listable is another matter. Most of the flatter areas are heavily built up and, other than gulls and swifts, are generally birdless. The upper rock is a nature reserve, but is dizzyingly steep with dense cover and little access (except metalled roads). As a result a number of birds that are widespread and relatively common in Spain only occur as migrants here (or even vagrants a Calandra Lark in 2012 was the first for 35 years). However, there is a very active bird observatory and natural history society (www.gonhs.org). In recent years (2014), political 'sabre rattling' by the Spanish authorities means crossing the border can be a nightmare (esp. for car drivers). At the best of times at peak periods there can still be long traffic jams to enter or leave Gibraltar. Visiting birders may find it easier to park in La Linea and walk in to use local public transport. If your primary aim is to explore nearby Spain, Gibraltar might not make a convenient base whilst tensions continue. However, if a sedentary observation of migrants across the straits is your preferred option then it can be a good choice. I’ve not attempted any serious birding on 'the Rock' so check Garcia & Patterson for details. For an excellent résumé of wildlife on the Rock see 'British Birds' March 2016 pp142-156. In brief remember that:i) Raptors – westerlies are the best winds – good watchpoints include Princess Caroline's Battery and the upper station of the cable car. ii) Migrants passerines - check the cemetery to the north of the peninisular, Governor's Lookout, Jacob's Ladder (in easterlies) and Mediterranean Steps. The Botanic
Gardens, near the foot of the cable-car can also hold migrants. The GONHS has a bird observatory at Jew's Gate which is a useful stop for the latest information. iii) Seawatching from Europa Point can be excellent with Gannets, Cory's & Balearic Shearwaters plus one of the few sites for (Mediterranean) Shag in the area. Opinion varies about 'Gib' some find it too much of a tourist trap and, to be honest, a wee bit tacky, but personally I like the 'Tunbridge Wells-in-the-Med' feel of the place. If you need a "Brit fix" (there’s a Morrison’s supermarket for supplies of marmite, etc) or you really need a good selection of English language paperbacks this is the place for you! There are also those Barbary Apes which, unlike their avian namesake, seem to be faring all too well. NB - REMEMBER YOUR PASSPORT!
Access: - as noted above access onto Gibraltar is sometimes compromised by political tensions; the road is also closed when aircraft land so delays are likely. Check too that you hire car company permits you to venture out of Spain. Parking can be difficult on Gib. Parking just beyond the border and walking in is an option – arrivals on foot are usually less prone to delays. You can travel on Gib's buses all day for 2€ - those from the border go to the cable car.
Appendix 2 – Selected Species List
(with annotations & phenological notes)
i) BIRDS Rarities: Spanish rarities, Local rarities Introductions: I = introduced/feral species Main Status (in CADIZ province only):
Present all year Breeding & passage visitors Winter & passage visitors Passage.only Summer’ visitors arrive, albeit often in small numbers, in late February and by March/early April migration is in full swing. [ ] = Seville Province. For a number of migrant species, mainly those of particular interest to British birders, I have also given a phenological table – based in part on my own observations, but also on the ‘Guia de Aves del Estrecho’ (see notes) and information from the ‘web’. They are a little ‘tentative’ though! The shadings on these diagrams are explained below: Main wintering period Wintering species:
Fewer present =
peak migration periods
Few migrants Present in suitable habitat Summer migrants:
peak migration periods
These tables need ‘tweaking’ and are currently in a 'rough-and-ready’ form should be used only an approximate guidelines! Black-neckedGrebe - A common breeding & wintering bird on most of the small lagunas that dot the province – note that Slavonian is very rare. See NW2.4, NW5, NW6, NW7, NW8, SV1 & SV2 Cory's (Scopoli’s) Shearwater Two races (increasingly regarded as full species) occur. Scopoli's (C.d. diomedea) breeds in the Mediterranean, but largely winters in the Atlantic. They return to the Mediterranean in February – March and depart Oct- mid-Nov.; passage may exceeed 3,000 per hour for long periods. Cory's (C.d. borealis) breeds mainly on Atlantic islands (a few do in the Med.) - status unclear due to ID problems but those birds present in the Straits and MALAGA Bay June-Oct. May be of this species. In general “Cory's type” shearwaters seem commonly round coasts except Jan-Feb. See NW14.3, SW5, SW14, E8 & E9 Little (Micronesian/Barolo's) Shearwater R Very few records – 4 from Gibraltar; there’s a possibility that pelagic trips to the Atlantic side of the straits (esp. in the early autumn) may prove it to be a more regular visitor. Levantine (Yelkouan) Shearwater
Formerly a common late summer visitor – now much rarer. Although,given how few people (me included!) are confident in identifying this from the next species at anything other than at reasonable range & in good light, it may be overlooked. The Mediterranean coast (e.g. E9 Sotogrande) probably offers the best chance. Balearic Shearwater Commonly seen off the coast migrating west through Straits May-August and returning Sept-Jan. Few birds seen through year. See NW14.3, SW5, SW14, E8 & E9 Wilson’s Petrel R Only a handful of records, but recent records suggest that it is probably regular in small numbers in the straits;one seen on a whale watching trip in August 2009, several small flocks on similar trips in July-August 2011, a couple recorded in July 2012 and more seen in 2013 - 5 in Spanish waters and a further 5-10 on the Moroccan side of the straits (July - Sept). Shag Now extremely rare and very unlikely to be seen other on Gibraltar (E8) which has only 4-5 pairs (the most westerly outpost of this the Mediterranean race. This subspecies has fewer than 75 pairs on mainland Spain (but over 2,000 on the Balearics). Western Reef (Egret) Heron An annual species (esp. Bonanza area NW2.3 & Cadiz Bay NW 14/15) although most reports are of hybrids with Little Egret Cattle Egret Abundant - although the number of colonies is restricted, Cattle Egrets disperse widely and are a ubiquitous species here. Excellent views may be had from the car of the colony on La Janda (SW7) when active (although this colony had declined in 2015). Little Egret Disperses less widely than Cattle Egret & more restricted to wetlands, but still common (e.g. NW2). Great White Egret A much increased species which is frequently met with in any of the ‘marismas’ particularly (although not exclusively) in winter. About 30 pairs (over 50% of Spanish population) breed on the Coto Donana. In Cadiz Bay (NW14/15) numbers have risen from a small handful in 2000 to 35+ in 2010; a change reflected throughout the area. A visit to Cadiz Bay, Bonanza (NW2.3), Trebujena, (NW2.5/6), Laguna de Medina (NW8) etc. area usually turns up one or two birds. Purple Heron Found in all areas with sufficient reeds to provide nesting habitat, but more widespread on migration. Try Laguna de Medina (NW8), Cigarrera (NW5), Bonanza area (NW2) or Embalse de Bornos (E1)
Squacco Heron The scarcest of the small herons – Laguna de Tarelo (NW2.4) and, if you venture north onto Seville, Brazo del Este (SV2) are the most likely sites, but may turn up anywhere on migration (e.g. La Janda).
A widespread if often localised species found at most sites with suitable habitat. A handful winter (esp. in the Guadalquivir valley). Laguna de Tarelo (NW2.4) is arguably the easiest place to see them, but any wetlands will have them e.g. Lagunas de Medina (NW8), Cigarrera (NW5) & Espera (NW6)
Little Bittern Can be surprisingly elusive for such an apparently common bird – however, Bonanza pools (NW2.2) never disappoints and both Laguna de Medina (NW8) and de la Mejorada (SV3 Seville) are excellent for the species. Rarely winters.
Black Stork A frequent and increasing passage migrant with 2,000+ crossing the straits in autumn. Birds increasingly (75+?) winter in the province e.g. La Janda (SW7), Trebujena Marshes (NW2.6), Bonanza (NW3), etc. White Stork Abundant – now winters in good numbers. Some quite filthy birds – they often feed on rubbish tips – can be found. Bald Ibis I Although a genuine vagrant, an introduction scheme means they are best viewed as an introduced species . They can be seen along the coast south of Barbate (SW 6) although they are much more easily seen on the driving range at the Montenmedio Golf & Country Club (off the Tarifa road south of Vejer). As has been widely reported in the national and local press in Spain and on the internet, birds regularly breed on cliffs near Vejer (see SW 16). The project is going well with a third colony now established and 25 young fledged in 2014. Sacred Ibis I This species, presumably from the expanding French feral population, sometimes occurs and has attempted to breed (at Embalse de Celemin). Glossy Ibis Bred in Spain until 1940s, but then for decades there were only sporadic records. Present on the Coto in late 1980s, breeding in 1996 (7 pairs) increasing to 5,300 pairs in 2010. Flocks of several hundred frequent on the Trebujena marshes when wet (NW2.6); see also La Janda (SW7), Bonanza (NW3), etc. Record Spanish count of 12,000 in November from Brazo del Este (SV2.1). A handful now breed in the egret colony on La Janda. Eurasian Spoonbill Another increasing species – breeds in Cadiz Bay (Trocadero Island) and on Laguna de Tarelo (NW2.4). Flamingo Unmissable: common and easily seen bird on the marismas (NW2, NW14/15/16) & shallow lagoons NW6/7/8/9) of the area. Lesser Flamingo R Increasingly recorded amongst Greater Flamingo especially at Laguna de Fuente Piedra (Malaga) where they have bred and where up to seven birds were present in 2009. Previously widely regarded as escapes, most are now generally accepted to be genuine vagrants. Several records from
Lagunas de Lantejuela (SV7). May turn up anywhere in a flock of Greater Flamingos (e.g. Bonanza Jan 2016). Shelduck OK they might be boring bread-and-butter birds to you but Bonanza saltpans (NW2.3) is one of the few breeding sites in southern Spain! Marbled Duck A scarce and often elusive species with only 30-50 pairs breeding in the Guadalquivir marshes. Although reported from many of the sites lagunas listed in the text, the only site where I’ve found them regularly in Cadiz province is the Codo de la Esparraguera (NW2.5 f) along the road besides the Guadalquivir. I have also seen them at Brazo del Este (SV2). Before being damaged and polluted Laguna de los Tollos (NW5) was a significant site for this species (up to 50 in the 1970s) and its restoration may yet tempt them to return. Some birds winter. White-headed Duck Although winter is arguably the best season to see this species, they are present all year. I have regularly seen them at Lagunas de Espera (NW6), Laguna de Medina (NW8), Lagunas de Puerto Real (NW10) and Laguna de Tarelo (NW2.4), ‘Bonanza Pools’ (NW2.2) and less often elsewhere. Having declined in recent years at Laguna de Medina (NW8) due to introduced carp, numbers rose at this site, but now seem to have slipped back. For good, close views ‘Bonanza Pools’ can’t be bettered. Osprey A frequent winter visitor. A co-ordinated survey in 2016 found 106 wintering birds in Andalucia of which 70% were in Cadiz Bay (NW14/15/16); birds also present on reservoirs around Arcos de la Frontera - Embalses de Arcos, Bornos & Guadalcacin) and passage migrant. In the last decade a few pairs have bred – first a 'wild' pair on Embalse de Guadalcacin in 2005 and subsequently 'hacked' birds from a re-introduction project based on Embalse de Barbate (SW 1) where 73 birds released 2003-2009. In 2013 there were nine pairs in Andalusia which raised 15
young and according to press reports by 2015 there were 20 pairs in Cadiz province alone. Black-winged Kite Despite a pair being seen near Sanlucar de Barrameda in spring 1884, it is a recent colonist to Spain with breeding first proven in 1973. It is an increasing species both in winter and in the breeding season. First wintered in Cadiz province in 1987 and first bred in 1995, but now relatively common. A survey in 2011 found at least 150 pairs split between the provinces of Cadiz, Seville and Cordoba. However, this seems a modest figure given how often I find them in both 'known' and less familiar sites. I've been told that there were “at least 35 pairs” in Cadiz province in 2009, but Stephen Daly reports on his blog that there are about 20 pairs in the “La Janda area” alone and possibly 100 pairs in the province as a whole. I wouldn't be surprised. A careful search of any of the lowland habitats in an arc from La Janda (SW7) across to Medina Sidonia, Laguna de Medina (NW8), Arcos de la Frontera and on to Espera (NW6) should ensure a sighting or two. Locally, the Cantarranas/Los Naveros/La Janda (SW3/4/7) area is the best bet. More widespread in winter with up to 40 birds roosting on La Janda (where the numbers have risen from 6 birds in 2002 to c40 in 2008). In my experience much easier to see here than in Extremadura. Red Kite A declining species in Spain. In 2015 a survey found c2,000 pairs in Spain (a 40% decline in the previous decade). In Andalucia only 56 breeding pairs were found of which 53 pairs were found in the Coto Donana (22 pairs in the biological reserve and another 31 pairs in the wider park), with the remaining three pairs were divided between the Sierra de Aracena and the Picos de Aroche. In Cadiz breeds only in Sanlucar area (Bonanza NW2.3). More widespread in winter and on passage.
Black Kite An abundant migrant (from February onwards although some now returning in December!). During
migration the Medina area seems particularly attractive to the species as does Los Barrios rubbish tip! Algaida Pines (Sanlucar) has a colony of c100 pairs. Few seen in winter.
Egyptian Vulture In serious decline throughout it’s European range. In Andalucia numbers have dropped from 81 pairs (1987) to 33 in 2008 mainly due to poisoning. These are spread across Jaen, Cordoba, Seville and Malaga (where it may actually be extinct), but the bulk seem to be in Cadiz province. Entire Spanish population c1,500 pairs so still tolerably frequent on migration in the area. There’s usually a pair around the cave at SW8. During migration periods I regularly see them in the Molinos valley and from Alcala village itself.
Griffon Vulture A huge increase in population from c8,000 pairs (max) in 1960 to c25,000 today, About 3,000 breed in Andalucia (of which c1,000 breed in Alcornocales/Grazalema area). The Molinos valley hosts a large roost for this species. A number of ‘official’ feeding sites exist, but are, inexplicably in my view, not used for to promote conservation or to educate the public. However, a public site has been established near Cortes de la Frontera (see E 3.4) but I do not have details of when or how often the birds are fed. Another site may exist near Villaluenga del Rosario (Grazalema – E3.2). At least 4,000 birds winter but many migrate.
Black Vulture A scarce visitor, but perhaps increasing – most often seen in winter. Best sites seem to be La Janda SW7, Los Barrios Rubbish Tip (SW15) & Grazalema E3 where a handful apparently resident. Rüppell’s Vulture R An annual, if elusive, visitor in small numbers. Most seem to be found in August and early September but this might simply reflect increased birding activity at this time. If, as widely suggested, Griffons act as ‘carrier’ species then early November and late May/early June should be peak times. Persevere and double check any darker birds that seem small (although sizes overlap) and appear to fly on flat wings (although Griffon do that too!). Most birds are immature, but an adult was in the Grazalema-Ronda area in 2010. Los Barrios tip (SW18) and any of the migration watchpoints (but esp. Cazalla SW13.2 AND Algarrobo SW13.8) are your best bet, but they can be seen anywhere. Lammergeier LR An extremely rare visitor since becoming locally extinct in Andalucia in the 1960s, but reintroduction plans (first young raised 2015) in the province may change its status here . Short-toed Eagle Handful reported in winter despite its exclusively reptilian diet. Abundant on migration (which starts un February..
Montagu's Harrier In decline with the population in Andalucia dropping from 1,483 pairs (1993) to 959 pairs (2010). However, it remains not uncommon in favoured areas and still more frequent on migration. Any open
farmed area should have a pair or two – La Janda (SW7) and the Seville farmlands (SV5). NB – Spain, esp. Galicia, has a greater proportion (3 - 5%) of melanistic birds than elsewhere.
Pallid Harrier R In recent years the number of Pallid Harriers found in Spain has soared from literally a handful per annum in the early 2000s to 30+ in 2013, 25 in 2014 and 40+ in 2015. Most (95%) are found in March/April in Catalonia, but one or two birds have also found their way to Cadiz (esp La Janda where they have wintered) so check harriers carefully! http://www.rarebirdalert.co.uk/v2/Content/Pallid_Harrier_influx_in_NE_Iberia_in_March_2015.aspx? s_id=448153747 Goshawk Arguably the most elusive of the local raptors despite a healthy population in the mountains. Best looked for when displaying early in the year. Possible anywhere - a juvenile bird ‘bounced’ the Lesser Kestrels over the terrace one August, Note that Sparrowhawks are fairly common ……. Long-legged Buzzard Birds are of the African race cirtensis are smaller and less long winged than the eastern race and lack a dark morph. Increasingly reported on passage, as a summer visitor (Tarifa) and occasionally in winter near Ronda. Two pairs attempted to breed (one successfully) near La Janda in 2009 and reports of breeding continue into 2014 (six pairs said to be present in the hinterland of the Straits). This may reflect either a change in status (and they seem to have increased in Morocco) or, perhaps, a greater level of expertise/awareness by birdwatchers. (Although cynics may think a low level of expertise could be responsible for an increase in nonphotographed records!). Active local birdwatchers seem to find them annually. Reports are concentrated in the La Janda/Tarifa area, but records are widespread with reports from the Coto Donana, Grazalema, Marchena, Ronda and elsewhere. Some birds have remained in a favoured location for several months or even years (e.g. Cazalla, Los Barios, etc). Note – identification is complicated by the presence of Long-legged x Common Buzzards hybrids (sometimes referred to as “Gibraltar Buzzard” in the area). See Rodriguez, Elorriaga & Ramirez 2013. Identification of Atlas Long-legged Buzzard and its status in Europe. Birding World 26(4): 147– 173. Spanish Imperial Eagle Formerly bred at Las Lomas (La Janda) and now breeding again in the area following a successful re-introduction programme. Most often seen in the mountains and hills around the Embalse de Barbate (SW1) and towards La Janda (SW7). Young birds also winter around Espera (NW6). With luck and patience may be seen over the Coto from the Trebujena/Bonanza area (NW2.3). Still persecuted – three (or more) birds were poisoned near the Coto in 2009. Between 2-3 birds regularly reported in the Cortes de la Frontera area in recent years. Despite persecution in 2012 a survey found 360+ pairs of Spanish Imperial Eagles in Spain (plus three in Portugal) - the highest number of fledged young (341) on record was in 2010. A reported 61 pairs in Andalucia. A continuing re-introduction programme has released c80 young birds into Cadiz province, establishing a population of 5 breeding pairs (2014). Accordingly, increasingly seen on La Janda in recent years. Golden Eagle Despite heavy persecution, since 2003 the population in Grazalema has risen from 8 to 14 pairs. They are regularly seen in the Alcornocales (esp. in winter). I've once seen the species over my house in Alcala de los Gazules) and just outside the 'parish' in San Jose in Sept 2014.
“Spotted” Eagle In recent years there has been a marked increase in the number of “Spotted” Eagles reported from the Straits in autumn (e.g. 10+ sightings in autumn 2015) and it seems a few birds now migrate west
rather than east. There are also more frequent reports of wintering birds on La Janda. Most have been identified as Lesser Spotted Eagle, but a number of known radio tagged hybrid Greater x Lesser birds are also involved. However a Greater Spotted Eagle seen in Jan 2016. For a detailed and very useful discussion of this see - http://birdingthestrait.com/blog/exceptional-spottedeagle-season-in-the-strait-of-gibraltar/ Greater Spotted Eagle seen in Jan 2016 Bonelli's Eagle Gradually increasing in the area with Cadiz holding 41 pairs (2009). Grazalema hold one of the largest populations of this species in Spain – I have rarely missed them in the Llanos de Libar (E4). Scarcer in Los Alcornocales where I have seen them in the Molinos valley, La Teja (SW16 d) and El Picacho (E2.2). Young birds disperse into the lowlands in winter esp. around areas such as Espera (NW6) and La Janda (SW7). Still occurs at Laja de la Zarga (SW 8) where Willoughby Verner records finding it in his 1909 book his “My Life among the Wild Birds in Spain”! Booted Eagle Common and increasing breeding bird in Spain – small numbers increasingly reported in winter particularly near wetland habitats like Guadalhorce, Coto, etc. Pale morphs heavily outnumber dark and intermediate morphs (which can be confused with Black Kite). A good population nests in Algaida pines (NW2.4).
Lesser Kestrel After a period of decline now increasing with over 5,000 pairs in Andalucia (2011) where there are almost 700 colonies. Many of the larger villages and small towns in Cadiz seem to have a colony and feeding birds scatter widely across the lowlands. A group of Spanish birdwatchers told me that Alcalá de los Gazules – more specifically the street outside my house - is known THE place to get good views of this attractive little falcon. The most recent estimate for the Andalucian population is just over 5,000 birds (and increasing). A few birds winter (when best found at dusk as they return to colonies to roost) and they arrive in good numbers by mid-February. Much less frequent over the village by August when many birds have dispersed on to the lowlands returning only to roost.
Lanner R Probably bred in the area inn the 19thC, but now a Spanish rarity. However, given the relative frequency with which the very few local birders seem to find this species a few probably regularly winter or appear on passage. La Janda and migration watchpoints seems a favoured sites, but this may merely reflect observer activity. A handful of winter records, but most birds seen March – October with a distinct peak in August and September (and a sharp drop in July) Said to be 2-3 birds present in 2010. (Note a radio tagged Saker from Hungary appeared in Spain in 2009 and another Saker was reported in autun 2014 so check carefully!) Eleonora’s Falcon LR Said to have bred on Gibraltar in the distant past, but still a very scarce spring (midApril) and autumn (August) visitor. Regularly seen, albeit in very small numbers, on La Janda (SW7) and in the Tarifa area (SW13). A few birds occasionally spend weeks in the summer around favoured spots (e.g. Coín near Malaga), so it is always an outside possibility here. Barbary Partridge Famously restricted to Gibraltar (E8). It has recently been in serious decline and difficult to see. In March 2015 the population was boosted by the introduction of c200 birds, but recent indications are that this has not stemmed the decline.
Baillon's Crake Sometimes reported from Brazo del Este (SV4 ) where you need to be familiar with this species call to locate one. Purple Gallinule Increasingly and widespread in all wetland habitats. Most easily seen on newly harvested rice paddies on la Janda. Locally called the Gallo Azul ( = blue chicken – cf the famous tapas bar in Jerez) ). Most wetlands will have them e.g. Lagunas de Medina (NW8), Cigarrera (NW5), Espera (NW6), La Janda (SW7), etc. Crested Coot This can be a frustratingly difficult species to pin down partly due to being a needle-in-ahaystack amongst all the Common Coots, but also due to their habit of sticking very close to the reeds. Things have been made no easier by occasional droughts (when very few birds may be present) and the introduction of ‘alien’ fish into some lakes. For example, Laguna de Medina (NW8) has had up to 25 individuals, but currently (2014) it has few, if any, birds apparently due to this cause. The most regular site now appears to be Lagunas de Espera (NW6) where three pairs bred in 2011. Laguna Dulce de la Zorrilla, the furthest from the road, is the best of these lagunas. However,they may also be present on the nearby Laguna de Cigarrera (NW7) – which is an easier site to visit than Espera. The Spanish bird atlas suggests that they nest on rather more lagunas in the area than this, but few details available. A ‘scope is often vital for finding this species. The number of breeding birds seems to fluctuate between 10-25 pairs with scarcely any birds breeding in drought years (this despite extensive re-introduction efforts) Small Button Quail (Andalucian Hemipode) R Since 1950 there are fewer than 25 published records plus a handful of 'reports' (many coming from hunters rather than birdwatchers) for the whole of Spain (all but a handful from Andalucia and over 50% from the Coto Donana). Of relevance here are records from Jerez de la Frontera (one hunted 1956, caught in a Quail net and several seen in1958), La Janda (hunted birds 1955), Barbate (reported 1978), Chiclana (heard 1995), “SW Cadiz” (2000-2001 several hunted!) and the most recent one heard on Donana (2002). Both the Spanish atlas enquiry and specific surveys since have drawn a blank and failed to locate any birds. If not extinct then incredibly rarely located by birdwatchers – if you find one alert SEO and quickly buy a lottery ticket whilst your luck's in. (See my blog for details & overview). Crane Formerly bred on La Janda (SW7) which had a population of 30-40 pairs in the 19thC (extinct in 1954). Now only a winter visitor arriving in October and staying into April. Birds may spill out into surround areas (Embalse de Barbate SW1) or as far as Trebujena (NW2.5/6) in early spring.
Great Bustard Extinct as a breeding bird in the province (formerly bred bird at La Janda) and classified as ‘in critical danger of extinction’ in Andalucia. The nearest population now found east of Seville near Osuna (SV5.2) where it is easier to find in the winter. Presumably, the odd bird may wander into the province in the future probably during winter when the species disperses more widely. The Andalucian population is estimated to be 441 individuals in 2011 (inc. 195 in Seville province).
Little Bustard Declining. There is a reasonable, but frustratingly elusive, population around Benalup (SW2), on La Janda (SW7) and, apparently, near Tarifa (SW10). Best located in spring by its far carrying ‘raspberry’ call. The impact on this population of so many wind generators in the area is a matter of concern. Also present in the area near Osuna (SV5.2) and elsewhere east of Seville (SV5 & SV7). The latest figures for the Andalucian population give a total of 5,259 males, but only 193 males in Cadiz province.
Stone-Curlew A widespread if thinly spread breeding bird – some winter. Laguna de Taraje (NW10) is a good spot for this species throughout the year. In autumn I have seen small flocks congregating on some of the drier salinas in Cadiz bay.
Collared Pratincole This charismatic – and endangered – species can be found in good numbers in the marshes along the Guadalquivir. In spring I have found that the best place for good views is ‘Martin Miguel’ pools (NW2.2), but Mesa de Asta Marsh (NW3), Brazo del Este (SV2) and a number of others sites are also excellent.
Kentish Plover This charming wader is under huge pressure due to increasing human use of its natural habitat – sandy beaches. For example, since the boardwalk at Playa de los Lances was constructed in 2008 numbers of birds present there have dropped from 100-150 to only 20-30. Large numbers (c2,000) still winter in the Bahia de Cadiz (which has just over 400 breeding pairs and is, after the Ebro delta, the second largest population in Spain) and relatively undisturbed salinas continue to hold many birds, but they are disappearing from beaches along the coast. Marsh Sandpiper A scarce passage migrant with even fewer (averaging 4 birds, max. count 12) wintering the Guadalquivir marshes. Wood Sandpiper Mainly a passage migrant although a few winter visitor to the Guadalquivir marshes Temminck’s Stint Scarce passage migrant & winter visitor to the Guadalquivir marshes Audouin's Gull With a population of less than 1,000 pairs in the late 1960s this was once a very rare bird, but following an enormous population increase (now c20,000 pairs) they began to appear here regularly from the 1980s. Most birds breed on the Ebro delta and winter on North Africa's Atlantic coast, hence there's a strong passage through the straits (July-August) and a less obvious return passage (Feb-April). Some winter in the straits. Playa de los Lances (SW11), if undisturbed, can be good as can Cabo de Trafalgar (SW5), if shallow rain filled pools beside the road are full, Barbate estuary (SW 6) and Tres Amigos Salt pans (NW14.1). Can be seen on whale watching trips from Tarifa. Slender-billed Gull For most of the 20thC only a few pairs bred in Spain, but since the 1980s they have increased enormously (although there are still fewer than a dozen breeding sites). Birds breed in the Marismas del Guadalquivir, Veta La Palma (across the Guadalquivir from Trebujena) and Bonanza saltpans. In none of these colonies do birds breed every year (although some non-breeding birds will be present) and numbers at Bonanza (NW2.3) fluctuate between zero and100+ pairs. La Tapa (NW13.2), Santa Maria saltpans (NW11) and elsewhere in Cadiz Bay can also be good (esp. spring & autumn). Gull-billed Tern Mesas de Asta Marsh (NW3) is undoubtedly the best site to see this species, but it can be observed anywhere along the Guadalquivir in spring/summer.
Caspian Tern A widespread if scarce migrant & wintering species (c100 in Cadiz Bay in autumn and c60 winter esp Chiclana & Sancti Petri, also Palmones (SW15). Has bred in Spain and I'm told they may have done so at Bonanza (NW2) in 2009.
Lesser-crested Tern Small numbers of migrants pass through in spring and rather more (but still in relatively few) in late summer/autumn: Playa de los Lances (SW9.2) is often regarded as the best location for this species, but Chipiona/Montijo/La Jara (NW1) has a good track record although less closely watched; regularly recorded during ringing sessions on a private site on Salinas de Tapa (NW14.2).
Whiskered Tern Donana has by far the largest breeding population in Spain (although much smaller than it was in the early part of the 20th C). It's fairly common in marshy areas [e.g. Bonanza (NW2), Brazo del Este (SV4)] and most lagunas (esp. spring and autumn) – a few birds winter.
White-winged Tern A few birds pass through with migrant Black Terns (the latter being a common migrant). Black-bellied Sandgrouse A very rare bird in Cadiz and classified as ‘in danger of extinction’ in Andalucia. Possible, but a long shot in the Seville farmlands. The Andalucian population has recently been counted resulting in a figure of 697 birds – mostly to the east of the area. An earlier estimate suggested 450 breeding pairs in Andalucia with 200 pairs in Granada, 100 pairs in both Jaen and another 100 in Almeria. Thus only c50 pairs are thinly spread between twenty 10 km squares in Huelva, Seville, Malaga and Cordoba. Seville province, with a dozen of the squares, possibly has the bulk of these birds. Two of the occupied squares are around Los Palacios-Utrera, seven form a string running from Marchena towards (and beyond) Ejica and three a tightly packed squares are aound Guadalcanal in the NW. Local extinction looks a possibility. I have seen them near Laguna de los Ojuelos (SV 5.2 g) in 2005 and closer to La Lantejuela in February 2013 (SV5.1 f). A flock of 18 were seen in the area in March 2012. Pin-tailed Sandgrouse I have found this an annoyingly elusive species although I am less often in Spain at the best time to find it (Feb/March). It is said to be found mainly in poor saline areas close to the Guadalquivir (NW2.5), Trebujena marshes (NW2.6), Casablanca (NW4) and around Lebrija (SV1) . Check out the dry former river channels north of Lebrija. Winter (esp. late Feb) is the best season in which to find them & knowing the call is the best way to locate them. A recent survey puts the relatively isolated, but concentrated, Andalucian population at between 400 - 600 birds. Of the 19 occupied 10 km squares shown in the region all but four are in the lower Guadalquivir valley (in the Coto, around Trebujena and up to Los Palacios area – the remainder thinly spread in the Marchena lowlands as per Black-bellied). Ring-necked Parakeet I Far less frequent in the larger towns of the area than the following species Monk Parakeet I Widespread in the larger towns of the area (esp. Cadiz)
Great Spotted Cuckoo Not a regular breeding bird in the area, although they have bred near Bonanza. They pass through on migration in limited numbers. Spring migration can start as early as late December.
Scops-Owl Absent in the NW of the province and only thinly distributed elsewhere – more likely in the coastal lowlands such as Tarifa, Bolonia and similar places. Breeds in Los Barrios. Few winter
Eagle-Owl A good population exists locally, but seeing them – other by sheer good luck - is difficult. Visiting the area’s large municipal rubbish tips may increase your cnahces of a sighting e.g. at Los Barrios rubbish tip (SW18) and near the turning for Santa Maria Salinas (NW15.1). Marsh Owl R Reported a number of times from La Janda in the 19 th Century and possibly formerly a regular visitor. Last recorded in Cadiz Bay in 1998; a dream find, but decreasing in Morocco. Red-necked Nightjar Far commoner in Spain than sometimes realised – Cantarranas (SW3) is my favoured spot, but they can be found along the Alcalá-Benalup road (SW1), near Lagunas de Puerto Real (NW10) on La Janda or in similar (i.e. sandy) habitats elesewhere.
Nightjar Migrant; note that the stridulations of some insects in the area are very similar to its song Alpine Swift Although Grazalema (E3) & Gibraltar (E8) hold the nearest breeding colonies, Alpine Swift can be seen almost anywhere in the area (inc over my house in Alcala), but particularly over large bodies of water. Appears as early as late February/March.
Pallid Swift Appears earlier than its Common cousin arriving in late February and in numbers in March (Common Swift arrive in late March, in strength in April). The town square (and viewpoint) in Arcos de la Frontera can be particularly good for getting close views of this species, but it can be seen in many of the towns of the area; tends to favour coastal localities. Be aware that in strong direct sunlight Common Swift can seem surprisingly pale to northern birders!
Little Swift R A new colonist first noted in the 1990s. Since 2000 reported from Malaga, Algeciras, the mouth of the Guadalquivir (NW1), Sierra de la Plata (SW8) and sierras beyond Seville, but still fewer than 30 pairs. Personally, I’ve found it can be quite elusive at the best known site (SW8) and find Chipiona (NW1) a much better place to look. I have had up to 17 birds here and others as many as
24! Unlike White-rumped Swift it is a resident species so also present in winter. As with the following species remember that this is an extremely rare (= schedule 1) bird so do not approach the nests not even for photographs! White-rumped Swift With only 100-150 pairs spread across western Andalucia and Extremadura White-
rumped Swift remains a rare bird. It originally colonised Sierra de la Plata (SW8), but now thinly spread in Alcornocales (c30 pairs) and Grazalema. They exploit Red-rumped Swallow nests esp under bridges and culverts. Since this is the Spanish equivalent of a ‘Schedule 1’ bird, do not climb up to the famous cave entrance at SW8. They arrive in late April/May (rarely March) and depart in September. Bee-eater A widespread bird, esp. common during migration. The lovely rippling liquid notes mean that they are more often heard before they are seen.
Hoopoe A common migrant, but less common breeding bird (mainly in east of the province esp. in sandy areas such as SW3 or NW2.4). A few winter.
Great-Spotted Woodpecker A few local birds may closely resemble the North African races showing a broad red band across the chest. Iberian Green Woodpecker A good bet for a ‘split’ since it as much resembles Grey-headed as Green Woodpecker. Fairly common, but it’s not always easy to see sufficiently well to note its distinctive features. Common in Grazalema (E3), but scarce or absent from the southern half of the province. However, it seems to be spreading here as I have seen/heard them at La Teja (SW16), heard several at Bolonia (SW8) and saw several near Benalup (SW2) despite not being present in the area according to the Spanish bird atlas. Short-toed Lark More widespread and catholic in its habits than Lesser being found on open pasture, dried muddy area, etc. Only present in summer. Abundant on Bonanza/Trebujena Marshes (NW2), in Cadiz Bay (NW15) and elsewhere.
Lesser Short-toed Lark
Resident – I usually have little trouble finding them along the Guadalquivir (e.g NW2.3, & NW2.5) or at the Salinas de Santa Maria NW15.1). Unlike Short-toed they are not usually in pastures, but prefer drier saline area. Both commonly seen on tracks. Thekla Lark Most confidently identified in the mountains where Crested not present although found at low level around Tarifa! Some books suggest that it favours the salinas of the Coto Donana, but Garcia & Patterson insist it’s not found there. Most of the larger larks I’ve seen there have been Crested, but I have seen a few birds I consider to have been Theklas. I usually see the species in the Ojen valley (SW17) esp at the western end near and beyond the venta. Another good spot is the venta above Ubrique (E2). Red-rumped Swallow The least common of all the hirundines, but fairly widespread; very few may winter. Another recent colonist which apparently only really started to expand in numbers in the 1920s/30s.
Tawny Pipit A rather scarce summer visitor to the southern third of Cadiz province, but can be common in small pockets e.g. near Marchenilla (E6) and in the Ojen valley (SW17) esp at the western end and near Jimena (E6)
Rufous Bushchat A declining species with local strong holds around Los Palacios-Marchena (SV1), Jimena (E6) and along the Tarifa-Bolonia coast (SW8). Laguna de Mejorada near Los Palacios (SV1) is probably THE place to see it, but people rarely seem to look elsewhere! They can be surprisingly elusive and it pays to look earlier in the morning. Knowing the song (to my ears an amalgam of Robin and Song Thrush!) helps. They appear to like parched vineyards, open, rocky areas with some bushes (olives) and dry stream beds. Some sites given in older references (e.g. Laguna de Medina) no longer seem to have the species.
Alpine Accentor A regular wintering species in Grazalema esp. Puerto de la Palomas (E3) & Llanos de Libar (E4) where birds have also been found singing in May hinting that it may be a very scarce or irregular breeding species there. I have also found them on the relatively inaccessible and rarely birded high tops of the Alcornocales in winter.
Black Wheatear A declining resident. According to the Cadiz bird atlas a few still breed in the south of the province and the species was seen in the hills near Tarifa in 2009, but realistically you need to go over to Grazalema (E3) to guarantee seeing them as they are still a common species in rocky habitats there. Black-eared Wheatear Generally fairly common, but apparently declining in many areas. Sometimes elusive in late summer. Populations seem to fluctuate from year to year; in 2009 I saw more than ever around Alcalá and elsewhere, but had very few in the same area in 2011.
Rock-Thrush Scarce summer visitor to Grazalema – Llanos de Libar (E4) seems to be one of the more reliable sites, but you need a little luck to track one down..
Blue Rock-Thrush A common resident bird is suitable rocky habitats in the Alcornocales (E2 & SW16), Grazalema (E3 & E4), Sierra de la Plata (SW8) and Castellar (E7). Has bred around the castle ruins in Alcala de los Gazules, but seems to have declined in the area as also now elusive in the Molinos valley. Savi's Warbler Although I’ve heard them at the far end of Laguna de Medina (NW8), I’ve only actually seen them at Brazo del Este (SV4). It is certainly an elusive and scarce species, but perhaps an overlooked one.
Sedge Warbler Common migrant Moustached Warbler LR Something of a mystery species in the area. Some sources claim that it is a regularly seen at various sites (and even that it breeds widely on the Coto Donana). However, neither the national nor the Cadiz province breeding birds atlas show it as being present. According to reputable local birders and ringers, it is no more than a very rare visitor most often found in the late autumn/winter (with most turning up in nets). Unfortunately, the notion that it is a more regular species here seems so well entrenched that casual sight records are rarely fully documented. Fan-tailed Warbler (Zitting Cisticola) Abundant is a variety of lowland habitats. Easily located by its ‘zit-zit-zit’ call as it bounces heavenward on an invisible bungee! Melodious Warbler Very common in scrubby habitats; can look very ‘washed out’ (c.f. Olivaceous). Its chortling song can be mistaken for that of a sylvia warbler (partly due to its habit of mimicry).
Olivaceous Warbler Although thinly spread throughout the area and common in the right habitat, there appear to be very few ‘known’ sites. In part this is due to the fact that most birders only look at well known ‘honey-pot’ sites like Languna de Mejorada (SV1). However, I have found them at many sites simply by looking in extensive tamarisk scrub –their favoured habitat . One good site is Laguna de Cigarrera (NW7)
whilst almost any tamarisk clogged riverbed in Seville province harbours a few pairs. It may be overlooked, but the appearance of several pairs at the well watched Laguna de Medina (NW8) in recent years suggests a recent expansion as Garcia & Paterson do not mention it here. Apparently also common in the river valley near Montejaque esp. below Cueva del Gato (see E4). Best picked up by song which sounds like a blend of Melodious and Reed Warbler.
Orphean Warbler A thinly distributed species which appears to like open hillsides dotted with wild olive trees. My only regular site is in Llanos de Libar (E4). Also reported from the woods as you drive towards Castellar (E7) but they are certainly present closer to hand let me know if you find them elsewhere! Song is like a disjointed Blackcap with distinctly Blackbird like notes.
Subalpine Warbler Not a common breeding species in Cadiz province away from Grazalema area although it passes through on migration. The nearest site where I’ve seen them regularly and easily is the Llanos de Libar
Dartford Warbler A common, if often elusive, species in low scrubby habitats. Look for them in low (c1m) open scrub (esp. Gum Cistus) particularly in the morning in calm weather. Sardinian Warbler Abundant resident Spectacled Warbler An early migrant that is usually not difficult to find in the salinas along the Guadalquivir, (NW2.3/5/6) but a few also occur in the mountains of Grazalema (E3/E4) and into Malaga province. I’ve recently been told that it also breeds in scrubby margins on La Janda (SW7) where, embarrassingly, I’ve failed to find it (… but Garcia & Paterson don't mention it either!)
Iberian Chiffchaff A cryptic species which has a somewhat disjointed distribution in Spain. Common in the woodlands of the Alcornocales (SW16 & E2), perhaps a little less so in Grazalema (E3/4). Generally arrives in March (though the first few appear in mid-February) and largely go by the end of September, but parameters probably still being worked out. Replaced by ‘Common’ Chiffchaff in winter. Diagnostic song and call. Spring adults tend to be greener/yellower than Common Chiffchaff with a slimmer, more obvious neck.
Common Chiffchaff See above
Nuthatch Rather surprisingly a recent colonist to the Alcornocales (SW16 & E2) where it is now common. Short-toed Treecreeper The only treecreeper present in the area.
Wallcreeper LR Although this species has been only very rarely recorded in the region, a bird wintered in Llanos de Libar, Malaga (E4) in 2008/9 and another in 2009/2010. Given the numerous cliffs and rocky areas and the scarcity of birders it may be more frequent than records suggest. Penduline Tit Winters on many of the lagoons in the area - Lagunas de Medina (NW8) & de Tarelo (NW2.4) - where they might also breed in some years. Regular breeder in the Brazo del Este area (SV4) and may well do so elsewhere occasionally (e.g. Laguna de Medina). Blue Tit I have been told that the North Africa race (now ‘split’ by some authorities) has turned up in the area, but I have seen no substantiated reports. Great Tit is widespread in woodlands and Crested Tit only a little less so, but Coal Tit is restricted to Grazalema. Golden Oriole A common if sometimes elusive – found particularly in the east of the Province
Iberian (Southern) Grey Shrike Note that this is the ONLY ‘grey shrike’ in the area; more widespread on passage & in winter. Note that Lesser is restricted to NW Spain (where its nearing extinction) and old records of Great Grey are difficult to judge since the ‘split’ was not widely recognised until recently. Mainly restricted to Grazalema (E3/4) as a breeding species, but they disperse widely during passage/winter. Woodchat Shrike Common but declining – be aware that despite breeding in northern Spain Red-backed Shrike are extremely rare here as the species migrates south-east via Egypt (it's a vagrant to Morocco). Any claims of juvenile Red-backed must exclude this species.
Common Bulbul Although common just across the strait in North Africa, this species is a rare vagrant to Spain. Since 2013 a pair bred near Tarifa and in 2015 several more were reported. This North African species may be in the process of colonising Spain. Azure-winged Magpie Within Cadiz restricted to La Algaida pine woods (NW2.4) where it is often very difficult to find. I have spent 5-6 hours looking here without success, but then had one fly over the car as I went to leave! Others have looked a dozen times without success. If seeing one is a priority then pop over to the Coto ‘proper’ where it is common (or drive to the mountains north of Seville or the hills north of
Fuente de la Piedra) . A pedestrian ferry regularly runs across the Guadalquivir from Sanlucar to the National Park. Officially it’s only possible to walk along the beach but the pines there may harbour this species. Raven This is the only large all dark crow, neither Carrion Crows nor Rook occur other than as rarities Spotless Starling THE starling of the area, (although it was very scarce in the southern part of Cadiz until the 1920s). Remember, though, that ‘our’ version is found in winter. Given the brazen nature of its cousin, it tends to be oddly shy and wary – particularly if you point a camera at it!. Starling – common in winter Common Waxbill I Red Avadavat I Black-headed Weaver Yellow-crowned Bishop I All four of the above species have been accidentally introduced and appear to be thriving in damp wetland areas Waxbill seems the most widespread (NW2.4 Algaida, NW2.3 Bonanza, NW2.4 Laguna Tarelo, SV1 Laguna de Mejorada & SV4 Brazo del Este). The bishop and the weaver are most frequently seen at Brazo del Este – note that some weavers appear to have pale eyes contra illustrations in most field guides. CRed Avadavat appears least successful in the area. Spanish Sparrow This species seems to have increased in recent years (although it may have been overlooked previously), but is still relatively localised in Cadiz province. Large eucalypt stands shelter large flocks of sparrows amongst which, with patience, a few Spanish Sparrows can often be found. Regular near Benalup (SW2), on La Janda (SW7), Espera (NW6) Laguna de Cigarrera (NW7), Espera (NW6) and on the track to Laguna de Taraje (NW10). Commoner in the southern part of Seville province esp. Brazo del Este (SV2) and along tamarisk choked river beds. Tree-Sparrow A rather scarce species in general, but numerous pairs breed in nest boxes in the Pinar de Monte Algaida (NW2.4) Rock Sparrow A very scarce species in Cadiz province being mainly restricted to the NE corner of the province, but several birds seen in the Molinos valley in April 2005. Common in Llanos de Libar (E4) Rock Bunting Thinly spread in the Alcornocales NW16/E2), but evidently thicker on the ground in Grazalema (E3).
Appendix 3 – 10 ideas for non-birding partners 1 – Caños de Meca & El Palmar Spending all day on the beach is my idea of hell, but I’m told some people likeit! These beaches near Vejer said to be the best. Alternatively, try Sanlucar which has some great ice cream parlours and sea food restaurants! Nearby Chipiona is only for the serious beach fan as it gets incredibly packed in the summer.
2 – Vejer de la Frontera A charming and cosmopolitan small town which is pleasant to wander round – try eating at La Casa de Califa.
3 – Jerez de la Frontera Enjoy tapas at the iconic Gallo Azul, visit a sherry bodega, pop into the castle, drift into the old covered market and be sure not to miss popping into the local branch of “Zara” which is housed in a fine old palacio. Bibliophiles will want to pop into 'Libreria Agricola de Jerez' Calle Paul (near the bull ring) which has a good stock of wildlife books (mainly but not exclusively in Spanish), guides and maps.
4 – Cadiz A wander round the old town & cathedral is a must as is a visit to the camera obscura housed in a typical old watch tower. Beaches here are also popular.
5 – Seville Famous for having the only building depicted in the Collins Bird Guide! One of Spain’s great cities – the Alcázar and its extensive grounds is not to be missed and nor is Casa de Pilatos.
6 - Baelo Claudia A superb Roman ruin with a size 2 museum housed in a size 10 building in the shell of a planned hotel which, unusually, the authorities stopped being completed.
7 – Arcos de la Frontera A stunning location with attractive narrow streets – park at the bottom, don’t try to drive up to the top of the town. The view from the mirador at the top is bettered only by that from the nearby church tower.
8 – Ronda A long trek through the mountains but the town’s situation on the El Tajo gorge is breathtaking. Don’t miss the stunning Moorish Palacio de Mondragón
9 – Cueva de la Pileta (Off the MA 8401 SW of Ronda) Take a jumper & a torch – the long dark walk through the cave alone is worth the journey, but the cave paintings make it special. If this is too far try the Tajo de las Figuras (c7km south of Benalup on the CA212) – park in the nearby camping/picnic site & walk through.
10 – Gibraltar Go on you know you want to! British beer, M&S, Morrison’s, etc. and those infamous apes!
Afterword and Acknowlegements What started out as three or four pages of notes on the birds around Alcalá for my personal interest and that of visiting friends has just kept growing. Not that’s it’s finished, but at least it’s now in a reasonably usable & organised form. I will certainly add more information as I continue to explore the area. Anyone who’s ever visited the region owes a huge debt to the pioneering work of Ernest Garcia and Andy Patterson whose “Where to watch birds in Southern Spain” is a landmark publication. These notes are no substitute for that book – if you’ve not got a copy go and get one! Even if you’ve already got an old edition, shell out for the much improved latest edition. Other volumes published on this area have also been extremely useful (see Introduction). A number of people have also provided information (either in person or via the internet) to make these notes more complete than they would otherwise have been. Others have been kind enough to join me on my birding jaunts out to Spain. I am particularly grateful to those who have sent me feedback on earlier versions of these notes. So thanks go to Alejandro Onrubia. (via Eddy Eyles), Geoff Bates, Richard Bonser, Jack Chantler, Phil Chantler, Paul Cropper, Stephen Daly, Lance Degnan, Eddy Eyles, Robin Griffiths, Dirk Hilbers, Stewart J Hingston, Jim Hodgkinson, John Hollyer, Alf King, Ian Kinley, Alan Livingstone, Robin Mace, Norman McCanch, Tony Morris, Peter Jones, Oli Reville, Jeffrey Saez, Anthea Skiffington & Steven West. Niels Larsen kindly followed up my request for corrections by sending me a list of typos and bloopers for my attention whilst Markus and Dorte Sarnow and Jean Baptiste Martineau also sent a detailed list of points and updates – I wish all readers were so helpful. Special thanks are due to Luis Miguel Garrido not only for information about the area, but also for his excellent company; I’ll try not to gabble too fast in English next time we meet! Naturally, though, I must thank my wife Liz for putting up with more birding than any non-birding spouse should reasonably be subjected to particularly when on holiday. Also for enduring the great Ruppell’s Vulture chase for three days (one of which was our wedding anniversary). Thanks too for allowing me to hog this computer.
The view from Alcala in early spring About the Author John Cantelo has been a birdwatcher for as long as he can remember which, as he's now tottering into his dotage, means he's been interested in birds for approaching six decades. By profession a History teacher, he has been both a Group Leader and part-time Field Teacher for the RSPB. He has served on the Kent Ornithological Society's Executive Committee and was the newsletter editor for the society for several years. Now retired, when not in Spain he edits books in the 'Crossbill Guides' series for whom he coauthored the guide on the 'Andalusian Sierras'. He is currently part of a team working on a new guide to wildlife in Andalucia for the Crossbill Guides. Although having first visited Spain in the late 1960s, life, work, children and a mortgage meant he didn't visit the country again until 2001. However, he has birded in Spain every year since and after buying a house in Cadiz province in 2005 has visited the province 3 or 4 times annually. Despite what his wife claims, he isn't obsessed with birding in Cadiz Province; he just gives a good impression of being so!
More minor updates. Note that the Ojen Valley, Lllanos de Libar and Guadalmesi now have restricted vehicular (or even in the case of the lat...
Published on May 11, 2015
More minor updates. Note that the Ojen Valley, Lllanos de Libar and Guadalmesi now have restricted vehicular (or even in the case of the lat...