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At last we had some raptor migration, all day long we saw ‘kettles’ of Honey Buzzard, swirling groups of Black Kites, a large flock of Black Storks and countless Booted Eagles. Our main target birds for today were in fact woodland species, but we were always keeping an eye on the sky.

We made our way through Algeciras and headed for the small marshland adjacent to Palmones, the tide was high so not much mud was exposed along the river but we did see some waders but not the terns I was hoping for. Grey Plover, Common Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Whimbrel, Redshank and Greenshank, along with Little Egret, Grey Heron and White Stork. The usual large number of Yellow-legged Gulls loafed around on the sand banks.

Grey Plover at Palmones Marshes

We did notice some Honey Buzzards passing overhead with a few Booted Eagles, things looked promising for the day. After picking up lunch supplies from a supermarket we made our way to the pine woods at San Roque, we had a great time there listing several woodland species we had not seen on the trip so far.

Little Egret, Oystercatchers and Grey Plover also taken at Palmones

At one stage we were surrounded by 5 Firecrests, two Crested Tits and a few Blue Tits, we had superb views of them. Short-toed Treecreepers were also in abundance, and we saw a few Jays which were more elusive.

the pine woodland at Pinar del Rey

Looking up to the sky through the trees we saw many Honey Buzzards, small ‘kettles’ rising on the thermals, they were joined by more Booted Eagles, Black Kites and Griffon Vultures. A short walk produced more sightings of Firecrest and we added both Pied and Spotted Flycatcher to the day list as well as Willow Warbler. Long-tailed Tit was a first for the trip but only one or two of us saw it.

Before we left the woods we spent some time sky-watching as more and more raptors appeared, at last we had a passage worthy of a mention! Our next venue was a track that ran around the southern edge of the large Embalse del Guadaranque, we stopped on a bridge to look for warblers and from there we good views of the Castillo de Castellar and a large piece of sky. More and more raptors came over, we added Osprey to the list but only Sardinian and Willow Warblers went on the list at the bridge. We did see many Monarch Butterflies feeding on Tropical Milkweed.

Monarch Butterfly (a very dark morph.) feeding on Tropical Milkweed - taken by Cris Perry

two pictures of the fabulous TWO-TAILED PASHA - taken by Chris Perry

Further along the track there is a mirador overlooking the embalse and this is a great place where to look for the magnificent Two-tailed Pasha Butterfly. We saw one almost immediately, but it was only after 30 minutes of patience that we finally had one settle near enough to photograph, what a beast!!

We followed that success with a trip up to the Castillo de Castellar, along the way we stopped to watch a Blue Rock Thrush, it flitted about on the top of a rock but no for very long. Our visit to the Castillo was a windy affair we were hoping for a sighting of perhaps a White-rumped Swift but all we saw were Crag Martins and Barn Swallows. Many Griffon Vultures drifted over and the usual swirls of Honey Buzzards, Black kites and Booted Eagles.

Driving back to Tarifa we stopped at the small park above El Palayo called Bujeo. It was bird-packed, especially around the small stream where several species were coming down to drink or to bathe. We logged: Great Tit, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Firecrest and Eurasian Nuthatch. In the bushes and scrub around the stream we found Hoopoe, Short-toed Treecreeper, Pied and Spotted Flycatcher, Bonelli’s Warbler and Sardinian Warbler. Our walk around the park produced more of the same.

some of the 43 Black Storks seen over Cazalla Observatory

Our last stop was at Cazalla Observatory, once again it was windy but we had some good sightings, the best of which was a flock of 42 Black Storks!! Amazingly they stay in view for 30 minutes or more just drifting back and forth and making no attempt to cross the sea to Morocco. We also saw Egyptian Vultures and usual array of Honey Buzzards, Booted Eagle and Short-toed Eagles.

When we arrived back at the hotel three of our group that remained there for the day had seen an Eleanora’s Falcon!!! We knew one had been seen at Cazalla earlier in the day so we were a little miffed!! Nevertheless, we were all happy that some raptor migration had taken place, at last! Long may it continue, at least for our last day tomorrow.