09/05 : the ugliest bird in the world and other things

I know this is all out of synch. with Dave's blog of 10/05 being published a couple of days since but I had over 160 photos to got through after last Wednesday's trip down to the area of Vejer de la Frontera, followed by La Janda and finally Bolonia, then things got tied up with even more urgent jobs to attend to so now, on Saturday afternoon of 12/05, I can finally get down to work on this blog. Of course, you may well have read Bob's entry in his Birding Axarquía blog, but I trust that you will find the time to read this too.
If I tell you that we were down there by 09.00, it'll give you some idea of the start time and we made very good, if not strictly legal, time. 
The main objective was to go in search of the Bald Ibises as this introduction programme, carrried out jointly between Medio Ambiente, Jerez zoo and the Moroccan authorities with the aim of diversifying the population from the one site in Morocco and the 5 birds remaining in Syria (not a place to want to go for the hols!).
This programme has been so successful that three years or so some birds were released in the Sierra de Retín, all colour ringed and after successful breeding last year, this year three pairs are breeding on a cliff face right by a main road, which makes them easy to find (top L), especially one has decorated its nest with a polythene bag but which hides the bird itself unless it decides to do some housekeeping (top R).
The male (we presumed) flew in after a while and showed wonderfully (below L) and the blow-up (R) shows its reptilian head and why it it is in line for the title 'the ugliest bird in the world' and which makes any probability of hybridising with any other species very unlikely (my sister says). and made this Jackdaw look positively handsome!
So, already ahead of schedule, we had a breakfast at the bar across the road and then headed for La Janda, going down the canal and back, then across the top and down the passably reasonable central track that brings one out near Facinas. We had already seen 4 Honey Buzzards and a single Common Buzzard on the way up towards Vejer and no sooner had we entered La Janda by the northern track than we saw that they have started flooding the fields and turning them into rice paddies and at a reasonable guesstimate there must have been 180+ Glossy Ibises in the flooded fields whilst others were being prepared.
The drainage canal levels were very high, which certainly hasn't helped the Purple Boghens - we saw none, nor the Great Reed Warblers as I heard only 2 singing males and I also heard a Greenshank on a couple of occasions butd failed to locate it. On the plus side we had splendid views of 3 Purple Herons and the usual White Storks.
Scanning across the fields to the east produced no harriers at all, much to our surprise, and few Calandra Larks and some distant raptors, a couple of Lesser Kestrels and one or two Black Kites, some of the later ones in a distinctly tatty state as the bird on the right shows, whilst the fields were swarming with Mallards, little green and brown heads sticking up all over the place! A surprise bird along the canal was an immature Cormorant and a couple of Little Grebes were also enjoying the waters depths and a single Spoonbill feeding along one of the side drains was rather out of place.
Once across the bridge, the drive along the long straight showed that Cattle Egrets are going to use it as a strip development breeding site which, I regret to say, will almost certainly be to the detriment of the European Turtle Doves and at the corner there was a Nightingale singing and some Pheasants from the Las Lomas and which had escaped high velocity lead poisoning.From there it was up past the smelly farm which, suprisingly, was NOT smelly as the ground was dry and as there were no cattle with thewhole place having a singularly deserted aspect.
However, stopping further along the road to eat meant that the action started as it always does when one wants to eat. A few more Black Kites, a few Griffon Vultures and some Honey Buzzards, an immature Bonelli's Eagle, a couple of Booted Eagles and a Woodchat Shrike to add to the list before we set off down the central track in the direction of Facinas, but not before warning Bob that if it got impassable we would have to turn and go back.
A pair of Red-legged Partridges - more escapees from lead poisoning, I suspect - ran across the road and we kept on southwards with only occasional more difficult bits - how obvious it is that we have been lacking in rain this winter - but still no harriers but a few Stonechats until finally we spotted a superb male Montagu's Harrier. And true to the rule book, would it fly within decent camera range and show decent side views or would it shows its rear end and disappear over the hill - the answer is in the photo!
How Stephen Daly gets such brilliant shots is beyond my understanding.
As we still had plenty of time in hand and with the levante wind increasing in strength I gussed that any raptor movement there would be would be blown westwards and that heading up to the cliffs above Bolonia might be a good idea and, for once, I was right! We really hit gold  in the time were up there and, like an idiot, I never noted how long we were up there, an hour and a half perhaps but we had Honey Buzzards of all plumages.  
We reckoned  that at a conservative estimate we saw somewhere between 350 and 400 birds but if anyone had said 500+ I would find it very hard to disagree with them as they kept coming, 10 here, 20 there and more way over in a vortex, some up from the south and others in from the sea where the levante must have swept them out before they beat back in.There were some Black Kites mixed in with them, probably 20 or so, and we also saw a couple of Short-toed Eagles whilst the resident Griffons flew around.
There was no thought of really looking out for the rare swifts but a solitary Black Stork really looked out of place whilst down below a Cuckoo was calling. Bob wandered off up the road and saw Blue Rock Thrush, to be expected there as they are resident but time was moving on and we still had a fair run back to Torremolinos, although we were easily tempted to stop at the mirador del Estrecho on the way out of Tarifa and there were one or two Honey Buzzards there too and 3 or 4 Griffons which appeared to be coming in from the direction of Africa.
Bob reckoned about 50 spp. for the day and he's usually about right, but what mattered was the quality of what we had seen and the passage of the Honey Buzzards. A great day's birding!