GIBRALTAR -RINGING STATION – EUROPA POINT – SAN ROQUE (PINAR DEL REY PINE WOODS) – RIO PALMONES MARSHES – LA CAZALLA RAPTOR WATCH-POINT
WEATHER: sunny all day with chilly northerly wind. Top temp 32C
We saw very few species today but we still had a great day. The trip onto Gibraltar is always exciting for the group, because usually, most of them have never been there before. Today was no exception and they really enjoyed the trip.
We left the hotel at 8am and 40 minutes later we had cleared security and were on our way along the east cliffs of Gibraltar heading towards Europa Point. The ringing station is situated at the ‘Jew’s Gate’ entrance to the Upper Rock. We were expected at 9am and that is when we arrived, we had seen a Macaque Monkey on the climb up the hill and a couple of Brown Rats!!
The view from Jew's Gate. Upper Rock Gibraltar. Morocco is 14 miles in the distance.
The ringing group led by Derek and overseen by Charlie were very welcoming and gave us an informative visit with plenty of birds to see in the hand. Unfortunately the winds were in the wrong direction to see any raptor migration but ‘birds in the hand’ are better to see than dots in the sky.
Over a two hour period we witnessed the processing of several species, the first being an Iberian Chiffchaff which we all wanted to see. The chiffchaff was followed by Blackcaps, Sardinian Warblers, Common Redstarts, Pied Flycatchers, Greenfinch, Blue Tit and Blackbird. The group had an amazing time and gave donations to the Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society (GOHNS).
Pied Flycatcher, trapped on its way to Africa which is shown in the background, good luck little birdie
Other birds seen during our visit were Common Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Raven, Booted Eagle, Black Kite, Marsh Harrier and about 150 Honey Buzzards.
After the ringing demonstration we took a walk along the one of the Upper Rock roads in search of Barbary Partridge, we failed to find any but the walk was nice. We saw Sardinian Warblers, heard our first Wren of the trip and watched the Ravens for a second time.
'Barbary Ape' - no! Its a Macaque Monkey
After driving back down to sea-level we parked at Europa Point and spent an hour birding the rocky shoreline and watching out to sea. It was a little choppy but the wind was in our backs and we found good shelter. A few Cory’s Shearwaters drifted past very close to the Point as did Audouin’s and Black-headed Gulls.
On the eastern side of the point we found 3 European Shags, a Grey Heron and to our great delight a Blue Rock Thrush. After visiting a supermarket to buy very cheap fuel (diesel £1.24/litre) we headed off the ‘Rock’ to find a spot for lunch.
We ate our picnic lunch at Pinar del Rey (pinewoods) near San Roque, plenty of birds were all around us in the pine trees. We saw several Short-toed Treecreepers, also Firecrests, Crested Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Jay, Spotted & Pied Flycatchers and Chaffinch.
Pinar del Rey - our picnic spot
After lunch we drove the Marshes at Palmones, the town itself was packed with Sunday day-trippers, most of the car parks were full and the beach area was crowded. We found a space and walked along the promenade and scanned the River Mouth and marshes.
The tide was rising but there still was quite a lot of muddy margins along the river and several sand-bars. Our first sighting was of a large flock of Greater Flamingos, they were flying across the Bay of Gibraltar and one point we thought they were heading our way but they turned and disappeared in the distance.
Lots of waders were out there, we saw: Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Redshank, Greenshank, Grey Plover, Common Sandpiper, Oystercatcher and Whimbrel. Two Little Terns dropped in on the far side and we scoped dozens of White Storks, a few Grey Herons and a single Osprey.
Walking back to the bus we stopped in a wooded parkland area and enjoyed great views of both Spotted and Pied Flycatchers, Common Redstart and a Willow Warbler.
A Pied Flycatcher not in the hand,. a free-flying bird
Before we returned to the hotel we made two short stops, one was for an ice-cream, nice, the other was at Cazalla Raptor Watch-Point, not so nice. At the watch-point it was very windy, we saw very little but the views across to Morocco was excellent and so clear.
a view of Morocco and the Strait of Gibraltar seen from Cazalla raptor watch-point
Whilst writing this at 6:30pm outside my room I saw and heard many Bee-eaters flying over, the last species of the day.
We added just 4 species to our trip tally, but is was quality not quantity today.