21 Sept. : Tarifa - La Janda

Before starting the account of the long awaited and much overdue trip down to Tarifa and La Janda with Federico, a quick comment that according to sources from northern Europe it looks like being a good autumn for Pallid Harriers (aguilucho papialbo),  A species which appears to be expanding its range westwards.  A juvenile Finnish bird is being satellite tracked and is currently in northern Spain. The daily position appears to be uploaded to the satellite link each evening when the bird is roosting, so herewith the link. 

Federico and I arrived down at the Cazalla observatory,  just outside Tarifa, at around 09.15. It was grey and reasonably windy but not cold. The first raptors were already moving, Black Kites (milanos negros),  Short-toed (águila culebrera) and Booted Eagles (águila calzada), a very nice male Marsh Harrier (aguilucho lagunero), a single Osprey (águila pescadora) and a flock of no less than ca.55 Black Storks (cigüeñas negras), of which we also saw more during the day.  Apparently last Saturday some 500 Black Storks were logged migrating south, which is a fair chunk of the western European population, somewhere in the 15-20% range, I believe.
The birds were coming over reasonably high so we decided to push  off to the Apolo XI bar (I saw the Apollo XI moonshot fly back in 1969 when I lived in the Bahamas) at Tahivilla, have a coffee and try our luck on La Janda.  The track alongside the drainage canal wasn’t particularly great, with lots House Sparows (gorrión común) and a surprising number of Corn Buntings (trigueros).  There were a couple of Green Sandpipers (andarríos grandes) in amongst the rice, some White Storks (cigüeña blanca) standing around but which took off south as the morning warmed up and a few Glossy Ibises (moritos). Occasional Marsh Harriers (aguilucho lagunero) and juvenile Montagu’s Harriers (aguilucho cenizo) floated around but it wasn’t until around 3 kms down the track that I spotted an Otter (nutria) cross in the rear view mirrow! A very chance and very fortunate observation!

The cutting of maize had started and ploughing was under way. Seeing 6 or so Lesser Kestrels (cernicalo primilla) was to be expected but the bonanza of insects and other creepy-crawlies revealed by the cutting and plough had attracted a massive number of Cattle Egrets (garcilla bueyera) and Jackdaws (grajillas) which must have come in from kms around. Our joint guesstimate was a mínimum of 3.000 and perhaps as many as 5.000 of the first, and around 800 of the second. Whatever the numbers, it was an amazing sight.
Going across the by the smelly (actually, not at all) farm, we stopped on the top road where normally I have some success but there was nothing, largely because of the noise of men working somewhere close. So, from there it was down to the central track which leads to near Facinas. It too was disappointingly poor for the first few kms but we ran into a quite spread out mixed party of passerines and this provided some very good views of Northern Wheatear (collalba gris) (8+) and also Black-eared Wheatear  (collalba rubia), a single Yellow Wagtail (lavandera boyera). There were, of course, the standard Stonechats (tarabilla común), but it was nice to come across no less than a mínimum of 10 Whinchats (tarabilla norteña). 
More surprising was the number of Tawny Pipits (bisbita campestre) – 10 at the least.

An unexpected surprise was the sight of 4 Roe Deer (corzos), an adult female with a younger animal and 2 more near adults from their size, galloping across one of the dried fields And all that rather sewed up the day, although we stopped a few minutes on the way back, watched more Booted Eagles (águila calzada) and later on Paco of the Cigüeña Negra observatory sent me a message that we had missed a Rüppell’s Vulture (buitre moteado) by 10 minutes. Thus is birding! 

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