MARCHENILLA TRACK – RIO HOZGARGANTE – EMBALSE GUADARRANQUE – SAN ENRIQUE WOODS – LAGUNA TORREGUADIARO – SIERRA CRESTELLINA
WEATHER: cloudy at first, clear from 10:00. Then hot, dry sunny – max temp 32C light easterly wind
We set off at 8:30am and headed down the Guadiaro Valley towards the coast, it was overcast but not dull. We turned off the main road at San Pablo then onto a farm track that led to a ‘hamlet’ called Marchenilla. During our journey we logged Common Buzzard, Woodchat Shrike, Common Stonechat and Spotless Starling.
Hard-core birding? Fiona in a relaxed mood
The track was alive with birds, flocks of Goldfinches, House Sparrows, Linnets, Serins, Common and Spotless Starlings. The scrub appeared to be full of Sardinian Warblers and the odd Zitting Cisticola.
As we advanced along the track the cloud dispersed and the air began to warm up, this triggered a tremendous movement of Honey Buzzards. First small groups of 6-10 appeared but as the morning went on the groups got bigger and bigger. I counted 98 in one bunch but there were many larger ‘kettles’, a conservative estimate would put the count at 1500 birds.
Honey Buzzards gathering to form a spiralling 'kettle'
Other species helped to fill the sky, over 30 Short-toed Eagles with similar numbers of Black Kites and Booted Eagles came over. A single Black-winged Kite was a bonus sighting, an unusual bird for this area and the second one I’ve seen this week.
A few migrant passerines were found along the fence-line, Whinchat, Northern Wheatear and a small flock of 5 Tawny Pipits. A single Eurasian Hoopoe showed well and over 100 Bee-eaters chirped above us or perched on the power lines.
We had spent nearly 3 hours walking the track so we decided to seek shelter at the nearby river Hozgargante. We sat near a large pool of water (the river wasn’t flowing) andcate our picnic lunch whilst watching a number of birds coming to drink.
It was an exciting hour as several species appeared close by, Willow Warbler was the most common species but we saw both Iberian and Eurasian Chiffchaffs, Western Bonelli’s Warbler and to our great delight a SPECTACLED WARBLER came down to drink, what a cracker!
From the river we drove to the dam at Guadarranque where we switched to butterfly watching. I used to take people there just to see Monarch Butterflies but this year there have been hundreds all over my patch. We had at least twenty sightings today before we got to the main colony! A second favourite butterfly of mine is the Two-tailed Pasha which can also be found nearby. Again this little beauty appeared right on cue, my old faithful never lets me down.
Next we drove to a coastal site near Soto Grande where WHITE RUMPED SWIFTS breed, it took us a while to find one but it really showed well once it appeared. We watched a single or two individuals for about 20 minutes, smashing bird and a new one for Fiona. Both Pallid and Common Swifts joined the show as well as Barn & Red-rumped Swallows and House Martins.
Our visit to San Enrique woods was a bit of a waste of time, we saw Spotted Flycatcher, Common Kingfisher, a few Booted Eagles and a very brief Tree Sparrow. We quit after 30 minutes and drove to the Laguna at Torreguadiaro.
As usual there was no access to view the laguna we had to make do with looking through a tiny gap in the reeds. We saw Purple Swamphen, Grey Heron, Little Grebe, Eurasian Coot and Common Moorhen, no sighting of the hoped-for Little Bittern.
Apart from a short stop at Sierra Crestellina, where we watch Griffon Vultures, we went straight back to Gaucin arriving at 6pm. A hot, dry day had produced a fine list of species with one or two ‘corkers.