TRANSFER FROM MALAGA TO TARIFA VIA RONDA
WEATHER: hazy sunshine all day, hot and humid, top temp 34C
We transferred to Tarfia today and took the long, scenic route, visiting Ronda into the bargain. We all met at 7am for breakfast, we now have a full compliment in the group as Phil, the last to arrive, jetted in at 2:30am this morning!!
At 8am the bus was loaded up and all seven of us set off for Tarifa, we headed into the mountains via Ronda and our first stop was at a rock face near the town of Teba. It was a known site for Bonelli’s Eagle but none were on show today. However we did see a few species which included: Rock Bunting, Chaffinch, Corn Bunting, Turtle Dove, Wood Pigeon, House Martin, Barn Swallow and not much else.
An hour later we pulled up in the car park at the entrance to the Sierra de las Nieves natural park on the eastside of Ronda. It took just a few minutes to locate our first sighting, a couple of Common Redstarts were chasing one another around. In the picnic area beside the car park we found a few more species, a flock of 12+ Woodlarks was nice, Iberian Shrike was next and well appreciated, followed by Jay, Willow Warbler and Booted Eagle.
As 10am approached and the air warmed up we started to see a few raptors taking to the air, a small flock of 25 Honey Buzzards was the first of many flocks, more Booted Eagles showed up and we added Short-toed Eagle and a single Griffon Vulture.
A water trough was overflowing and attracted some birds to it, we watched a Willow Warbler take a bath, a few Rock Buntings dropped in too as well as Chaffinch and a Great Tit. On the way back to the bus we saw more raptors and another Common Redstart.
Driving further into the park we stopped near an open area with clumps of gorse we quickly added Common Stonechat and Dartford Warbler to the list and we also caught a brief glimpse of a Spectacled Warbler and a family party of Sardinian Warblers. A few butterflies had been added to our sightings such as: Cardinal Fritillary, Grayling sp., Southern Speckled Wood, Sage Skipper, Spanish Chalkhill Blue and Clouded Yellow.
Scanning the ridge-line looking for raptors produced a sighting of Eurasian Sparrowhawk, this bird circled on the thermals and was mobbed by Alpine Swifts and Common or Pallid Swifts (it was impossible to identify them at that range).
Deeper into the park we stopped near some mature pines and found up to four Firecrests, Eurasian Nuthatch, both Grey and White Wagtails and we heard a Short-toed Treecreeper, At this point we turned around and headed back towards the entrance of the park, We made a couple of stops on the way back.
The first stop produced a couple of very distant male Black Wheatears and the second stop produced a small flock of Crested Tit as well as a Two-tailed Pasha Butterflies, what a magnificent beast. We also noted several Blue-winged Grasshoppers and more butterflies.
From the park we drove towards Ronda and pulled over at a roadside restaurant for lunch, During lunch we saw over 100 Bee-eaters, a group of Black Kites, more Honey Buzzards, Griffin Vultures and a Common Kestrel.
After lunch we stopped in the centre of Ronda to scan the cliff-faces from the famous bridge looking for Red-billed Chough. Last week dawn and I saw fifty to sixty of them from the bridge, today my group saw exactly…….none! They did find a few Crag Martins and hundreds of Feral Pigeons! Ha!
As we headed off towards the coast we made one final stop in the mountainous area near Ronda, which proved to very productive. We saw Black-eared Wheatears, (juveniles and adults), also Thekla Larks, Woodchat Shrike, Whinchat, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Goldfinch, Black Wheatear and three Red Deer.
Raptors stole the show once again, we saw a flock of over 100 Black Kites, also several large flocks of Honey Buzzards, some of which numbered over 50. We saw Booted and Short-toed Eagles, Common and Alpine Swifts and a good number of Griffin Vulutres. Bee-eaters came over in good numbers too!
We had a two-hour drive ahead of us and it was approaching 4:30pm, so we abandoned our birding and set off to the coast. We made one final stop after driving for an hour. We stopped near the village of Casares at Sierra de Crestellina, where we saw over 50 Griffin Vultures and had much closer views of Short-toed Eagle (one of which was mobbed by a Common Kestrel!). We searched once again for Bonelli’s Eagle without luck.
We reached our hotel near Tarifa at exactly 6:30pm, ample time to change and shower and get ready for dinner. We ate on the terrace, everyone was tired, but we enjoyed the meal and the wine!
Our list total has risen to 97 after our efforts today.