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Alcornocales Nature Park, Doñana National Park, Strait of Gibraltar, Los Lances Beach, Bolonia, whale watching boat trip, bird ringing, Medina Lagoon, Bonanza Saltpans, Rocío, Odiel , Ronda city, Sierra de las Nieves, Guadalhorce River (8 days)

Tour leader and trip report written by: Cristian Jensen Marcet 

Group members: Dorothy & Len Nelson, John & Patricia Christie, and Colin Freeman 

169 bird species recorded

This trip was organised by Frontier Holidays

September 9th 2007 - Day 1

Today was a transfer day, and the late arrival of the group members did not leave much time for bird watching. We drove from Malaga to the eastern part of the Alcornocales Nature Park and settled in to our charming hotel in one of the white villages of Andalucia with windy streets and steep slopes.

September 10th 2007 - Day 2

We woke up to a beautiful morning and had our breakfast on the hotel’s roof terrace. Spotless Starlings were singing from the surrounding roofs and aerials, and this was the first lifer for Colin, Dorothy, and Len.

Once we had finished our breakfast we got ready for our three hour walk in the Alcornocales Nature Park. An easy walk with a steep bit near the end. During our walk we saw lots of raptors, including Egyptian Vulture, Griffon Vulture, lots of “Honeys”, Black Kite, Booted Eagle, Short-toed (Snake-) Eagle, and a Sparrowhawk.  Among the most spectacular sightings was a group of thousands of House Martins covering the bushes, power lines and cliffs. Firecrest, Short-toed Treecreper, Sardinian Warbler, Crested Tit, and Blue Rock Thrush were also seen, and the marvellous butterfly Two-Tailed Pasha was spotted flying in between the trees. Later on we managed to get photos of this species resting on a branch.  A Black Stork was seen flying quite close to us.

At lunchtime, we arrived to our restaurant where “tintos de verano” and “claras” were served for us along with the meal. After lunch we took the van and went to a charming fortified village in the heart of the Alcornocales Nature Park. Raptors flew constantly over our heads, and we added Lesser Kestrel to our list and generally had great views of all the raptor species. Three Monarch butterflies were seen flying over a stream, looking for a suitable flower to land on.

Our dinner was served in the hotel with good wine and delicious desserts.

September 11th 2007 - Day 3

This morning we left our hotel for one closer to the Strait. Our new accommodation was placed in the middle of the forest, with Hawfinches practically on our front step. On the way to the new hotel, we stopped in one of the Raptor Migration (Migres) points where we joined one of the groups of volunteers counting all the raptors crossing to Africa. During our stay there we saw hundreds of Honey Buzzards, Black Kites, Sparrowhawk, Goshawk, Egyptian Vulture, Griffon Vulture, Booted Eagle and Short-toed Snake-eagles. After our picnic lunch we headed to the hotel, where we checked in and had a bit of siesta time.

In the afternoon we had planned a boat trip into the Strait, but we had to postpone it due to the rain. Instead we went to the western part of the Alcornocales Nature Park, to an area with rice fields and wetlands. We saw lots of birds there like Spoonbill, Little and Cattle Egrets, Purple Heron, Montagu’s and Marsh Harriers, Black-winged Stilt, Bee-eater, Red-legged Partridge, Crested Lark, Great Reed Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, and thousands of Spanish Sparrows. But the most spectacular sightings weren’t of the more rare birds, but rather of the mega groups of common species like Goldfinch, Sparrow, swallows and martins, that literally covered the bushes and trees and the ground. In a similar fashion, flocks of White Storks were covering the ground in some areas. All this was seen through a slight drizzle, and without moving from the car!!!

Back in our hotel we had a very good dinner consisting of some Moroccan-style dishes.

September 12th 2007 - Day 4

After breakfast the weather was nice, and we went to the very long, straight beach of Los Lances. We saw many shorebirds, such as Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Dunlin, Red Knot, Sanderling, Redshank, Common Sandpiper, and Bar-tailed Godwit. We also saw larks, including Crested, Sky, Calandra, and Short-toed. Groups of the Iberian Yellow Wagtail, Corn Bunting, and some migrants like Whinchat, Northern Wheatear, and Bee-eater, where also flying around in the area, and over the sea we saw Cory’s Shearwater. A group of Audouin’s Gulls were sitting by the beach.

At lunch time we had an appointment at the Roman ruins and a restaurant by the beach. All of us enjoyed the lovely walk around the ruins, including a mystery sighting of a “chameleon”. In the afternoon we had the whale watching boat trip, but Len and Pat didn’t want to go so we brought them back to our cottages so they could have some time off by the swimming pool or walking in the garden.

Dorothy, John, Colin, and I, went on the boat. Very soon, the first Common Dolphins appeared, followed by Pilot Whales and Bottle-nosed Dolphins. And then we saw a spray in the distance!!! We sailed on, and as we were getting closer, we identified the animal below the surface as a Sperm Whale!!!! Cracking!!! The boat stopped at a respectful distance, and we watched it for a while until the animal exposed its tail and dived into the sea. Later two more Sperm Whales appeared, and then another, and then two more, so a total of SIX Sperm Whales allowed us to see them. Most of them were mobbed by the Pilot Whales and Bottle-nosed Dolphins that obviously had their territories in the area. A great day out at sea!

Back in the hotel, we again had a very nice dinner, this time consisting of more local cuisine.

September 13th 2007 - Day 5

Early in the morning we had a local bird ringer visiting, and he did a demonstration of how and why ringing is done. Shortly after we had breakfast and then started our transfer to Doñana. On the way we had some special spots to check. In a big lagoon we saw Squacco and Purple Herons, Spoonbill, Marsh Harrier, and Great Crested, Little, and Black-necked Grebes.

We went to have lunch in a restaurant close to the birding areas, and after lunch the first stop was the salt pans next to town. We saw lots of waders like Avocet, Black and Bar-tailed Godwits, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Dunlin, Ringed and Kentish Plovers, and other birds like Caspian Tern, Slender billed Gull, and Yellow-legged Gull. After watching the Flamingoes perform their strange dance while eating, we saw three Black Storks very close.

After the salt pans we went to a pond, where we saw the White-headed Duck and 52 (!!!!!) Marbled Teals! Night Heron, Shoveler,  Gadwall, and lots and lots of mosquitoes were added to our list!!! A short drive later we arrived at our new hotel in El Rocío, on the edge of the Doñana marshes.

September 14th 2007 - Day 6

Before having breakfast, we had a chance to birdwatch in the marshes of El Rocio, and later on we headed west to visit a massive tidal area with salt pans where huge amounts of shorebirds were present. Red-knobbed Coot was added to our list together with Stone Curlew, Eurasian Curlew, Whimbrel, Greenshank, Cormorant, Mediterranean Gull, and - found by Dorothy - an adult Herring Gull; a very unusual sight in Andalucía.

After this area and before Colin starved to death, we arrived at our lunch spot, where we saw Azure-winged Magpie as well as Thekla Lark and Dartfort Warbler. Then we went on an excursion inside the National Park of Doñana. We admired the dunes, and the “corrales” of moving pine forests, and we saw both Red and Fallow Deer, and Wild Boar. Red Kite and Black, Little, Common, and Sandwich Terns, were added to our list. While we were looking for the Spanish Imperial Eagle, we spotted another raptor. It was a buzzard…not a common one, but a Long-legged Buzzard!!!!

After our successful trip inside Doñana and the jumpy ride through the dunes, we went back to the hotel. After dinner I headed out to see Red-necked Nightjar with Colin and Dorothy, and we managed to see four different individuals - two of them very close by. Half an hour later we were back to our hotel.

September 15th 2007 - Day 7

Today was another transfer day, and after doing some birding in El Rocio we headed towards our last destination. On our way we stopped at the town of Ronda to see the impressive ravine with beautiful bridges and lots of Red-billed Choughs.

In the mountains we saw a pair of Golden Eagles in territorial flights, and also Wood Lark, Southern Grey Shrike, and Black-eared Wheatear. We checked into our hotel on the edge of the Sierra de las Nieves Nature Park, and after a siesta we went for walk inside the nature park. Here we added Rock Sparrow, Grey Wagtail, Common Crossbill, Coal Tit, and Long-tailed Tit, to our list.

September 16th 2007 - Day 8

The last day already. We did a short walk around the village and then headed towards Malaga, stopping en route to see Black Wheatear. John and Pat had an early flight, so we left them at the airport while Dorothy, Len, Colin, and I, had a few more hours left for bird watching. We went to the Guadalhorce River mouth close to the airport, where we saw Monk Parakeet, Great White Egret, Serin, Kingfisher, and Mute Swan.

After finishing the check list in the airport we checked in and all headed home.

I wish to thank Dorothy, Len, John, Pat, and Colin, for such a great tour.


Comments from Colin

From breakfast on the roof terrace on day 1, where I had my first lifer (Spotless Starling), to the river next to Malaga Airport hours before takeoff where I saw my 33rd (Monk Parakeet), I enjoyed every minute of the week's birdwatching. Many of the birds I had only seen previously rarely or in brief glimpses were there in numbers in plain view. Cristian not only identified birds but explained the diagnostic features with great patience. Watching the ringing at dawn was an eye-opening experience and the whale watching boat trip nearly to the Moroccan shore an unexpected thrill. The highlight for me was undoubtedly watching the raptors soaring majestically overhead on the way to Africa.

The variety of accommodation was very well chosen, all had great character and who could complain about Hawfinches from the front door at Huerta Grande. I can't wait to go again to find the birds we missed this time. Thank you again for a wonderful holiday.

Bird list

  • 1. Great Crested Grebe - Podiceps cristatus
  • 2. Black-necked Grebe - Podiceps nigricollis
  • 3. Little Grebe - Tachybaptus ruficollis
  • 4. Cory's Shearwater - Calonectris diomedea
  • 5. Balearic Shearwater - Puffinus mauretanicus
  • 6. Great Cormorant - Phalacrocorax carbo
  • 7. Grey Heron - Ardea cinerea
  • 8. Purple Heron - Ardea purpurea
  • 9. Little Egret - Egretta garzetta
  • 10. Great White Egret - Egretta alba
  • 11. Cattle Egret - Bubulcus ibis
  • 12. Squacco Heron - Ardeola ralloides
  • 13. Black-crowned Night Heron - Nycticorax nycticorax
  • 14. Glossy Ibis - Plegadis falcinellus
  • 15. Eurasian Spoonbill - Platalea leucorodia
  • 16. White Stork - Ciconia ciconia
  • 17. Black Stork - Ciconia nigra
  • 18. Greater Flamingo - Phoenicopterus ruber
  • 19. Mute Swan - Cygnus olor
  • 20. Greylag Goose - Anser anser
  • 21. Mallard - Anas platyrhynchos
  • 22. Gadwall - Anas strepera
  • 23. Common Teal - Anas crecca
  • 24. Northern Pintail - Anas acuta
  • 25. Northern Shoveler - Anas clypeata
  • 26. Marbled Teal - Marmaronetta angustirostris
  • 27. Red-crested Pochard - Netta rufina
  • 28. Common Pochard - Aythya ferina
  • 29. White-headed Duck - Oxyura leucocephala
  • 30. Egyptian Vulture - Neophron percnopterus
  • 31. Eurasian Griffon Vulture - Gyps fulvus
  • 32. Osprey - Pandion haliaetus
  • 33. European Honey Buzzard - Pernis apivorus
  • 34. Red Kite - Milvus milvus
  • 35. Black Kite - Milvus migrans
  • 36. Booted Eagle - Hieraaetus pennatus
  • 37. Golden Eagle - Aquila chrysaetos
  • 38. Short-toed Eagle - Circaetus gallicus
  • 39. Northern Goshawk - Accipiter gentilis
  • 40. Eurasian Sparrowhawk - Accipiter nisus
  • 41. Common Buzzard - Buteo buteo
  • 42. Long-legged Buzzard - Buteo rufinus
  • 43. Western Marsh Harrier - Circus aeruginosus
  • 44. Montagu's Harrier - Circus pygargus
  • 45. Peregrine Falcon - Falco peregrinus
  • 46. Common Kestrel - Falco tinnunculus
  • 47. Lesser Kestrel - Falco naumanni
  • 48. Red-legged Partridge - Alectoris rufa
  • 49. Common Pheasant - Phasianus colchicus
  • 50. Common Coot - Fulica atra
  • 51. Red-knobbed Coot - Fulica cristata
  • 52. Purple Swamphen - Porphyrio porphyrio
  • 53. Common Moorhen - Gallinula chloropus
  • 54. Eurasian Oystercatcher - Haematopus ostralegus
  • 55. Pied Avocet - Recurvirostra avosetta
  • 56. Black-winged Stilt - Himantopus himantopus
  • 57. Northern Lapwing - Vanellus vanellus
  • 58. Grey Plover - Pluvialis squatarola
  • 59. Common Ringed Plover - Charadrius hiaticula
  • 60. Little Ringed Plover - Charadrius dubius
  • 61. Kentish Plover - Charadrius alexandrinus
  • 62. Ruddy Turnstone - Arenaria interpres
  • 63. Dunlin - Calidris alpina
  • 64. Curlew Sandpiper - Calidris ferruginea
  • 65. Little Stint - Calidris minuta
  • 66. Red Knot - Calidris canutus
  • 67. Sanderling - Calidris alba
  • 68. Common Redshank - Tringa totanus
  • 69. Common Greenshank - Tringa nebularia
  • 70. Common Sandpiper - Actitis hypoleucos
  • 71. Green Sandpiper - Tringa ochropus
  • 72. Ruff - Philomachus pugnax
  • 73. Eurasian Curlew - Numenius arquata
  • 74. Whimbrel - Numenius phaeopus
  • 75. Black-tailed Godwit - Limosa limosa
  • 76. Bar-tailed Godwit - Limosa lapponica
  • 77. Common Snipe - Gallinago gallinago
  • 78. Stone Curlew - Burhinus oedicnemus
  • 79. Great Skua - Stercorarius skua
  • 80. Black-headed Gull - Larus ridibundus
  • 81. Mediterranean Gull - Larus melanocephalus
  • 82. European Herring Gull - Larus argentatus
  • 83. Yellow-legged Gull - Larus michahellis
  • 84. Lesser Black-backed Gull - Larus fuscus
  • 85. Audouin's Gull - Larus audouinii
  • 86. Slender-billed Gull - Larus genei
  • 87. Sandwich Tern - Sterna sandvicensis
  • 88. Common Tern - Sterna hirundo
  • 89. Little Tern - Sterna albifrons
  • 90. Caspian Tern - Sterna caspia
  • 91. Black Tern - Chlidonias niger
  • 92. Whiskered Tern - Chlidonias hybridus
  • 93. Feral Pigeon - Columba livia feral
  • 94. Common Wood Pigeon - Columba palumbus
  • 95. Eurasian Collared Dove - Streptopelia decaocto
  • 96. European Turtle Dove - Streptopelia turtur
  • 97. Monk Parakeet - Myiopsitta monachus
  • 98. Tawny Owl - Strix aluco
  • 99. Red-necked Nightjar - Caprimulgus ruficollis
  • 100. Common Swift - Apus apus
  • 101. Pallid Swift - Apus pallidus
  • 102. Common Kingfisher - Alcedo atthis
  • 103. European Bee-eater - Merops apiaster
  • 104. Hoopoe - Upupa epops
  • 105. Calandra Lark - Melanocorypha calandra
  • 106. Woodlark - Lullula arborea
  • 107. Crested Lark - Galerida cristata
  • 108. Thekla Lark - Galerida theklae
  • 109. Greater Short-toed Lark - Calandrella brachydactyla
  • 110. Lesser Short-toed Lark - Calandrella rufescens
  • 111. Eurasian Crag Martin - Hirundo rupestris
  • 112. Barn Swallow - Hirundo rustica
  • 113. Red-rumped Swallow - Hirundo daurica
  • 114. Northern House Martin - Delichon urbica
  • 115. Sand Martin - Riparia riparia
  • 116. Tree Pipit - Anthus trivialis
  • 117. Yellow Wagtail - Motacilla flava
  • 118. Grey Wagtail - Motacilla cinerea
  • 119. Woodchat Shrike - Lanius senator
  • 120. Southern Grey Shrike - Lanius meridionalis
  • 121. Great Reed Warbler - Acrocephalus arundinaceus
  • 122. Eurasian Reed Warbler - Acrocephalus scirpaceus
  • 123. Zitting Cisticola - Cisticola juncidis
  • 124. Cetti's Warbler - Cettia cetti
  • 125. Blackcap - Sylvia atricapilla
  • 126. Sardinian Warbler - Sylvia melanocephala
  • 127. Dartford Warbler - Sylvia undata
  • 128. Western Bonelli's Warbler - Phylloscopus bonelli
  • 129. Willow Warbler - Phylloscopus trochilus
  • 130. Common Chiffchaff - Phylloscopus collybita
  • 131. Firecrest - Regulus ignicapillus
  • 132. European Pied Flycatcher - Ficedula hypoleuca
  • 133. Spotted Flycatcher - Muscicapa striata
  • 134. Whinchat - Saxicola rubetra
  • 135. Common Stonechat - Saxicola rubicola
  • 136. Blue Rock Thrush - Monticola solitarius
  • 137. Northern Wheatear - Oenanthe oenanthe
  • 138. Black-eared Wheatear - Oenanthe hispanica
  • 139. Black Wheatear - Oenanthe leucura
  • 140. Common Redstart - Phoenicurus phoenicurus
  • 141. European Robin - Erithacus rubecula
  • 142. Blackbird - Turdus merula
  • 143. Long-tailed Tit - Aegithalos caudatus
  • 144. Crested Tit - Parus cristatus
  • 145. European Blue Tit - Parus caeruleus
  • 146. Coal Tit - Parus ater
  • 147. Great Tit - Parus major
  • 148. Eurasian Nuthatch - Sitta europaea caesia
  • 149. Short-toed Treecreeper - Certhia brachydactyla
  • 150. Winter Wren - Troglodytes troglodytes
  • 151. Eurasian Jay - Garrulus glandarius
  • 152. Eurasian Magpie - Pica pica
  • 153. Azure-winged Magpie - Cyanopica cyana
  • 154. Northern Raven - Corvus corax
  • 155. Eurasian Jackdaw - Corvus monedula
  • 156. Red-billed Chough - Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax
  • 157. House Sparrow - Passer domesticus
  • 158. Spanish Sparrow - Passer hispaniolensis
  • 159. Common Starling - Sturnus vulgaris
  • 160. Spotless Starling - Sturnus unicolor
  • 161. Chaffinch - Fringilla coelebs
  • 162. European Serin - Serinus serinus
  • 163. European Goldfinch - Carduelis carduelis
  • 164. European Greenfinch - Carduelis chloris
  • 165. Common Crossbill - Loxia curvirostra
  • 166. Hawfinch - Coccothraustes coccothraustes
  • 167. Rock Sparrow - Petronia petronia
  • 168. Corn Bunting - Miliaria calandra
  • 169. Cirl Bunting - Emberiza cirlus


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