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WEATHER: broken cloud with plenty of sunshine. Top temp 20C

Whilst the UK is enduring a very cold spell we have escaped to Spain for a pre-Christmas break. It's not all sunshine, in fact most days it is raining and some of it torrential. During our first week, three days have been OK whilst the other four have consisted of persistent rain, mist and cloud! We are 2,000ft above sea level and often in the clouds.

Today was a sunny day so we drove down to the coast for a change of scenery, I took my bins and scope but, of course,  this was not a birding trip! As we passed near Jimena de la Frontera a Merlin flew across the road in front of us, we also saw several Griffon Vultures, a Blue Rock Thrush on a telepone wire, lots of Spotless and Common Starlings, flocks of Corn Buntings, Goldfinches, Linnets and Chaffinches.

Near San Roque a White Stork colony can be found and although many nest were lost during a renovation of the electricity supply line ( a loss of some 60 nests when a series of pylons were removed) there are still good numbers in the area. Every nest was occupied (20+) with a pair of White Storks and we saw a flock of around 200 birds circling on the Thermals, a lovely sight.

We parked at the beginning of the promenade at Palmones Town where the river flows into the marismas, about a mile inland from the beach at Algeceris Bay (it is called Gibraltar Bay on UK maps). I quickly got onto a Redshank feeding on the opposite bank and a Common Sandpiper flew upriver.

looking down river from the promenade, you can see Palmones Town and Gibraltar in the distance, the marsh is on the right across the river.

Scanning the marsh I picked out a pair of Stonechats, a few Meadow Pipits and a male Bluethroat, the latter was brief and very distant, but it did appear several times. Then an Osprey began quartering the river about 1/2 mile away, it caught a fish and landed on an open area of the marsh, a further 1/2 mile away!!

honestly, there is an Osprey eating a fish in this picture, look below the green bush in the centre of the picture!

Along the river bank we noted several more wader species, as we approched the beach area sand-bars can be found. Dunlin, Sanderling, Whimbrel, Grey Plover, Oystercatcher and Ringed Plover were noted in small numbers. Dozens of Yellow-legged Gulls sat on the muddy shore with fewer Black-headed Gulls and a couple of Mediterranean Gulls. 

a Redshank

a Grey Plover

In an inlet near the shoreline we saw a couple of dozen Sandwich Terns, I was hoping for a larger tern species, but none were there.

In the bushy scrub along the river and in the bushes and trees behind us in a park we saw a lot of Black Redstarts, it was the most common species after House Sparrow! Other species in the scrub were mainly Common Chiffchaff, a lot of them. Birds seen out on the marismas included Great Cormorant, Grey Heron, Little Egret, White Stork and Common Kestrel.

a Whimbrel

We ate lunch in a one of the many cafe/bars, carrillera en salsa (pigs cheeks in sauce) is one of our favourite meals. After that we spent some time and a lot of money in the DIY shop before we headed for home.

One the way back we took a short cut at the small village of Marchenilla, taking a track across to San Pablo de Buceite, this is one of my favourite tracks in the whole of Andalucia. It was full of birds, flocks were everywhere. Dawn was getting a little fed up by now so I made this a short visit.

the Marchenilla Track

We watched dozens of Linnets, Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Chaffinches, Serins, Meadow Pipits, mixed flocks of two species of Starlings, Corn Buntings and Sparrows.

look for Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Serin in these pictures

Common Buzzards circled over the hill crests with Common Kestrel and Griffon Vulture, I was hoping to see a Hen Harrier or two but none appeared. We drove the entire length of the track and then through San Pablo up to Gaucin to finish our day.