16 April: Barca de Vejer - Benalup - N of La Janda

A shortish note on the birding this last Wednesday when I took Ron Appleby up to La Barca de Vejer to tick off Bald Ibis - surely a candidate for one of the most reptilian looking birds, not to mention its hair style which latter greatly amused Ron. We ran into thick fog from Algeciras onwards which extended most of the way up past La Janda but which was quite clear by the time we had parked in La Barca where Stephen Daly was showing the same birds to a small group of clients.
Bald Ibis - last in the beauty contest
Having walked at least 50m for one of the easiest ticks ever and after Ron had had his fill of this species and counting some 9 nests on the cliff face, we had a coffee. Stephen told me that plans to extend the availability of nest sites by some foreign organisation had been turned down by the administration for some reason which was blamed on cash availability although he intimated that there were some xenophobic tendencies behind it by someone, in spite of the tourist attraction factor being built in alongside the conservation factors for this rare species.
As Stpehen had checked out La Janda the previous day and it was totally dead, we fgollowed his suggestion and went off towards Benalup to watch displaying Montagu's Harriers, 2 males and a female, to the background of a singing Nightingale. At the same point we also saw a pair of Black-shouldered Kites, surely one of the most attractive of raptors but these, like the harriers were rather distant on what was still a rather grey morning.
mentally retarded Griffon Vulture
male Blue Rock Thrush
From there it was on through Benalup and slowly down to the north end of La Janda, stopping along the road before the smelly farm, where we ran in to quite a reasonable selection of raptors with 3 Common Buzzards, a couple of Marsh Harriers, 25 or so Black Kites - some of which were in extremely tatty plumage, and also some Griffon Vultures, one of which was exceedingly dumb and let me more or less walk up to it as it sat in the crown of a wild olive. Here too we saw 4 Booted Eagles and a Kestrel.
Given that La Janda would be a waste of time according the info. from Stephen - and it certainly looked very dry and unsuitable for very much at, we decided to go across to Bolonia and up to the cliff face which we hoped would give us something. There were no Egyptian Vultures to be seen at the usual hole, in spite of prominent 'no climbing' signs but there were Griffon Vultures on the cliff and it may be that their presence has ejected the Egyptian Vultures, a species which is diminishing in numbers generally. On the other hand, below the cliff face a pair of splendid Blue Rock Thrushes were quite prominent whilst a pair of male Lesser Kestrels made an appearance, it being presumed that the females were incubating if the noise levels were anything to go by.
We stopped on the way down and walked the open scrubby area and turned up 4 Woodchat Shrikes and 2 Northern Wheatears.
Not a bad day from my point of view but Ron was very pleased and we did have 9 spp. of raptors, so another happy friend!
Lesser Kestrel male

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