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Costa de la Luz

& Tanger, Morocco


30 March - 10 April 2005

Observers: F. Simpson




In early April 2005 I was working on an ecological genetics university field course based around Zahara de los Atunes, Cádiz province in southwest Spain. Much of the time was spent along the south-eastern end of the Costa de la Luz which provided the opportunity to note the birdlife in the area around Zahara, Barbate and the Valle de Ojén in Los Alcornocales Natural Park. It was a good time of year to observe some of the northward spring migration of raptors from North Africa and the early butterflies. On our day off I crossed the Strait of Gibraltar for a day trip to Morocco. One of

the highlights of the week was the sighting of seven Northern Bald Ibises (Geronticus eremita) near Zahara! Not genuine wild vagrants from Morocco but captive-bred individuals released late last year as part of a reintroduction programme to save one of the most endangered breeding birds in the Western Palaearctic. Click here for details of this sighting.

Previous Trip Reports:  2023 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2003





Northern Bald Ibis (reintroduced) · Common Bulbul · Little Swift · House Bunting · Purple Swamp-hen · Spoonbill · Lesser Kestrel · Greater Flamingo · Spectacled Warbler · Gull-billed Tern · Short-toed Eagle · Black-eared Wheatear · Hawfinch · Bee-eater · Western Orphean Warbler · Iberian Chiffchaff · Calandra Lark · Blue Tit (North African race) · Chaffinch (North African race).




1.      Garcia, E. & Paterson, A. 1994. Where To Watch Birds in Southern Spain. Helm.
2.      Butler, J. R. 2001. Birdwatching on Spain's Southern Coast. Santana Books
3.      Gosney, D. 1996. Finding Birds in Southern Spain. Gostours Guide.
Simpson, F. 2003. Trip Report: Costa de la Luz, 2-12 April 2003.
Tolman, T. & Lewington, R. 1997. Butterflies of Britain & Europe. Collins.
Sterry, P. 2000. Complete Mediterranean Wildlife Photoguide. Collins.
Svensson, L. et al. 1999. Bird Guide. HarperCollins.
8.      Michelin 446 Map: Andalucia/Costa de Sol 1/400 000. Michelin Services de Tourisme.





Day 01       30/03/05     London Stansted > Jerez de la Frontera > Zahara de los Atunes
Day 02       31/03/05     Zahara de los Atunes > Playa de Atlanterra > Barbate
Day 03       01/04/05     Zahara de los Atunes > Valle de Ojén, Parque Natural de los Alcornocales
Day 04       02/04/05     Zahara de los Atunes > Atlanterra
Day 05       03/04/05     Tanger, Morocco
Day 06       04/04/05     Zahara de los Atunes > Valle de Ojén, Parque Natural de los Alcornocales > Playa de Atlanterra
Day 07       05/04/05     Zahara de los Atunes > Vejer de la Frontera > La Janda > La Zarzuela
Day 08       06/04/05     Zahara de los Atunes > Barbate > Bolonia
Day 09       07/04/05     Zahara de los Atunes > Cabo Trafalgar > Sierra de Retín
Day 10       08/04/05     Zahara de los Atunes > Valle de Ojén, Parque Natural de los Alcornocales

Day 11       09/04/05     Zahara de los Atunes > Sierra de Retín > Marismas del Barbate

Day 12       10/04/05     Zahara de los Atunes > Parque Natural del Acantilado y Pinar de Barbate > Jerez > London






Day 1

Wednesday 30 March 2005
London Stansted > Jerez de la Frontera > Zahara de los Atunes

Tawny Owl observed flying into its nest in an abandoned building in a small village somewhere along the A-381 and a Nightjar sp. over the road somewhere along the A-393.



Day 2

Thursday 31 March 2005
Zahara de los Atunes > Playa de Atlanterra > Barbate
Warm (max 23°C), hazy sunshine, strong E wind

Observations from the roof of the Hotel Gran Sol (on the beach front overlooking the sea and the old castle walls): Griffon Vulture overhead from the nearby Sierra de Retín. Yellow-legged Gulls passing along the Atlantic shoreline. Barn Swallows (20+) hawking over the Avenida de la Playa. House Sparrows abundant - nesting in the old walls of the Castillo de las Almadrabas. Spotless Starlings fairly common. Crested Lark running around the end of the street where it meets the beach.

Around 2 km south of the main town at Nuestra Zahara. Corn Buntings singing along the foreshore and in the low dune system along the beach. Crested Larks displaying. A few Kentish Plovers on the sand. Over 100 Swifts (not identified) overhead. Small parties of Linnets and Goldfinches passing along the coast. Short-toed Lark displaying. Monarch Danaus plexippus flew east, followed by a pair of Turtle Doves. A Booted Eagle (pale morph) was observed coming in off the sea following its crossing from North Africa. Red-rumped Swallow (3). Spotless Starlings and House Sparrows on the edge of the urbanisation. Hoopoe disturbed from a sandy hollow in the denser area of garrigue vegetation behind the foreshore. At least three Black-eared Wheatears present. Zitting Cisticola song-flighting.

Mallow Skipper Carcharodus alceae or False Mallow Skipper C. tripolinus in vegetation along the base of a prickly pear hedge. Woodchat Shrike perched on a rickety fence line. House Martins (40+) overhead along with 100+ Swifts (not identified) at higher elevation. Small White Artogeia rapae (4+). A dead female Blackcap at the roadside.

Observations along this 10 km stretch of the coast. Cattle Egrets fairly common in rough fields and coastal grassland grazed by cattle. Dunlin (50+) and a single Redshank in one of the old salt lagoons at the roadside at the Marismas de Barbate. Sardinian Warblers common on the scrubby hillside at the Km-7 marker. Also Thekla Lark in scrub around the boulders on the edge of the military zone, Blue Rock Thrush (f), Stonechat (pr), Linnet (pr), Common Kestrel (2), Goldfinch (4+), several Spanish Festoons Zerynthia rumina and Provence Hairstreaks Tomares ballus butterflies. Meadow Pipit (2) at Km-8 and several Sandwiches along the tide line. Small estuary on the edge of Zahara at Km-9: Little Egret (1), Kentish Plover (2), Corn Buntings singing, Sandwich Tern (5), Barn Swallow (5), Linnet (2), Yellow-legged Gulls, and Griffon Vultures soaring over the end of the Sierra de Retín here.

In the hour before dusk, a large noisy roost of House Sparrows formed in the palms along the Avenida de la Playa. Joined by small flocks of Spotless Starlings which also gathered on the walls of the old castle here. Nightly event.

Costa de la WindfarmCastillo de las Almadrabas, ZaharaZahara de los Atunes Sunset



Day 3

Friday 1 April 2005
Zahara de los Atunes > Valle de Ojén, Parque Natural de los Alcornocales
Warm, cloudy, strong NE wind

Good numbers of raptors migrating over the Strait area this morning. Many struggling low over the water while harassed by gulls. Mainly Montagu's and Marsh Harriers but also plenty of Short-toed Eagles, Booted Eagles and Lesser Kestrels. Constant stream of Barn Swallows and regular groups of Goldfinches in off the sea. A single also Osprey arrived. Kentish Plover and Crested Lark on the beach at the end of the Avenida de la Playa. Several small parties of Goldfinches (c10) flew in strongly, one group contained a Serin and another settled to briefly feed on weeds around the castle before continuing their journey inland. Gannet close inshore.

Griffon Vulture (c22), Black Kite (1).

Several Montagu's Harriers hunting low over the pasture along the roadside. Bee-eater, Crested Lark, Stonechat, Calandra Lark, White Stork, Cattle Egret, House Sparrow and Spotless Starling noted.

Short-toed Eagle, Bee-eater, White Stork, Kestrel sp, and Stonechat noted on the drive from the Embalse de Almodóvar to Puerto de Ojèn area. Arroyo del Tiradero at Km-11: there is a gap in the scrub on the right-hand side of the track with a barbed wire 'gate'. From here it is possible to walk down the slope to the Tiradero stream. Observations in the Cork Oak and Alder woodland strip along a small area on the bank of the Arroyo del Tiradero, around 11 kilometres from the park entrance sign on the Facinas side: Large Tortoiseshell Nymphalis polychlorus (3), Spanish Festoon Zerynthia rumina (common), Provence Hairstreak Tomares ballus (several but typically inconspicuous) Wall Lasiommata megera (4), Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria (fairly common) and Cleopatra Gonepteryx cleopatra (3). Iberian Chiffchaff found singing in the same area as a territorial bird in 2003 - also a second bird singing nearby. Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle and Black Kite overhead. A flock of 34 Bee-eaters flew north. Short-toed Treecreepers fairly common, particular in the areas of Alder. Subalpine Warbler singing in dense, thorny scrub with large spines. Also noted: Great Spotted Woodpecker, Blackcap, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Wren, Robin, and Blackbird. Spanish Terrapin Mauremys leprosa and Common Toad Bufo bufo photographed.

Single male Pied Flycatcher seen in scrub near the reservoir (Embalse de Almodóvar). Stonechats fairly common. A few Mallard on the dry banks of the reservoir. Pair of White Storks at Tahivilla and another at the N-340/CA-P 2221 junction. Several Cattle Egrets along the CA-P 2221 to Zahara with a concentration of around 80 birds resting in a ploughed field at La Zarzuela. Zitting Cisticolas zipping over roadside fields.

Spanish Terrapin (Mauremys leprosa)Valle de Ojén, Parque Natural de los AlcornocalesDried Thistle



Day 4

Saturday 2 April 2005
Zahara de los Atunes > Atlanterra
Warm, overcast with light showers in the morning, cleared to blue sky early afternoon, wind dropped since yesterday

Meadow Pipit (2) flew in off the sea. Territorial Kentish Plovers. Pallid Swifts identified. Crested Larks displaying. More Goldfinches arriving today from North Africa. Sardinian Warblers and Stonechats singing, Barn Swallow (20+).

Yellow-legged Gull (52) and Sandwich Tern (2) on the shoreline. Flight of 18 Bee-eaters passed west along the coast. High density of Sardinian Warblers in the Cistus & Dwarf Fan Palm scrub on the slope between Atlanterra and the lighthouse (Faro de Camarinal). Most of the warblers appeared to feeding young in the nest and removing faecal sacs. Nightingales (2 singing mm) in more open areas with taller scrub and vegetation. Wren singing. Cleopatra (m). Up around the lighthouse: several Blackbirds and Wrens singing. Sardinian Warblers common. Stonechat (pr). Walked east around the headland (Cabo de Gracia) towards the next bay, passing along the military zone fence line. A male Blue Rock Thrush singing and displaying on the rocky outcrops. Another male singing on a prominent rock down towards the sea. Two Crag Martins flying back and forth along the slope around the lighthouse. Booted Eagle and Common Kestrel overhead. Around 50 Bee-eaters hawking over the higher slope. Provence Hairstreak, Wall, Brimstone, and Large White noted.

View of Morocco from Zahara de los AtunesWild TeaselSnail (Theba pisana)



Day 5

Sunday 3 April 2005
Zahara de los Atunes > Tarifa > Tanger, Morocco
Warm, cloudy start, clearing later, light winds

Still dark while driving for the first ferry but already many Cattle Egrets were flying out from roost sites to feeding areas along the coast. Several Lesser Kestrels active around the breeding colony in the old city walls at the ferry terminal.

Species noted on the sea crossing across the Strait of Gibraltar: Audouin's Gull (7), Great Skua (1), Cory's Shearwater (2), Balearic Shearwater (3), Gannet (3), Sandwich Tern (1), Yellow-legged Gull (fairly common), Lesser Black-backed Gull (3), and Cormorant (2). Shag and Mediterranean Gull just off the port at Tanger.

This was really just a tourist trip included in the ferry package. Time was spent around the busy urban environment of the Kasbah and Medina with no real searching for birds. It was worthwhile for seeing three species unavailable (Common Bulbul & House Bunting) or at least very difficult to find on the European mainland (Little Swift). The most interesting common species were the North African races of: Chaffinch (africana) with its greyish head and face, greenish back and light pink underparts; Blue Tit (ultramarinus) with its blackish cap. Both were observed in an area of Eucalyptus woodland on steep slopes overlooking the sea on the east side of the town. Species noted: Serin, Spotless Starling, Collared Dove, Pallid Swift, Feral Rock Dove, Cattle Egret, House Sparrow, Common Swift, Sardinian Warbler, Wood Pigeon, White Stork, Jackdaw, Blackbird, Rock Bunting, Cormorant, Barn Swallow, Booted Eagle, Goldfinch, Red-rumped Swallow, Wren, Lesser Kestrel, Black Kite, Black-headed Gull and Peregrine. Three House Buntings were observed high up on a church in the old quarter of the city. Two Little Swifts were observed in the Kasbah area. Just 20 minutes before leaving for the ferry terminal I found a singing Common Bulbul in a walled garden/parkland area on the edge of the Medina. Another was singing nearby in response. Thanks to Angus Hogg for information on House Buntings in Tanger.

Street Entertainer, TangerTanger, MoroccoStreet Entertainer, Tanger



Day 6

Monday 4 April 2005
Zahara de los Atunes > Valle de Ojén, Parque Natural de los Alcornocales > Playa de Atlanterra
Warm, parly cloudy, moderate wind

Area of rough pasture and Cork Oak woodland behind the Venta de Retín at the other end of the Sierra del Retín. Butterflies found: Western Dappled White Euchloe crameri, Moroccan Orange Tip Anthocaris euphenoides, Bath White Pontia daplidice Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas. Woodchat Shrike (pr), Cuckoo (m), White Stork (12) overhead and another five feeding in surrounding fields, Griffon Vulture (8 o/h), Barn Swallow (40+), Great Tit (pr), Red Kite (1), Common Kestrel (1), Calandra Lark displaying over the ploughed field over the road, Tree Sparrow (4+), Booted Eagle (2), Black Kite (1), Pallid Swift (100+), Cirl Bunting singing, Sardinian Warbler (common), Goldfinch (nice flock of 120), Greenfinches singing, Linnet (pr), Spotless Starling, Crested Lark, Stonechat (pr), Hoopoe (1), Serin and several Corn Buntings bursting their lungs. A loose group of over 50 Bee-eaters flew over from the direction of the coast. Grey Heron in a large ditch beside the N-340 on the edge of the La Janda area.

Observed a male Bullfinch in the open Cork Oak woodland - out of range according to the Collins Bird Guide. Moroccan Orange Tip (10+), Swallowtail Papilio machaon, and Holly Blue Celastrina argiolus on the wing. Iberian Chiffchaff, Western Bonelli's Warbler and Short-toed Treecreeper singing. Grey Wagtail flew along the burn.

Black-winged Stilt in the estuary upstream of the bridge. Pallid Swift (55+), Griffon Vulture (4), Brown Argus Aricia agestis (1), Sandwich Tern (1), Zitting Cisticola, Sardinian Warbler, Crested Lark, Yellow-legged Gull, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Corn Bunting, Goldfinch, Woodchat Shrike and an impressive Nosed Grasshopper Acrida hungarica in the low dunes.

Spanish Festoon (Zerynthia rumina), Valle de OjénCommon Asphodel (Asphodelus microcarpus), Valle de OjénProvence Hairstreak (Tomares ballus), Valle de Ojén



Day 7

Tuesday 5 April 2005
Zahara de los Atunes > Vejer de la Frontera > La Janda > La Zarzuela
Warm, blue sky, moderate wind

Noted on the drive along the coast: Griffon Vulture, Cattle Egret, Yellow-legged Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull (10+), Corn Bunting, Goldfinch, Swift sp, Barn Swallow, Greater Flamingo (12) and Black-winged Stilts in the Barbate Estuary.

Walked up to the highest area of this Pueblo Blanco around the old castle walls. A pair of Lesser Kestrels perched on a ledge and another eight birds hawking over the town. House Martins and Barn Swallows numerous. Jackdaw, Feral Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, and Goldfinch also noted.

At the junction of the CA-P 2221 with the N-340, opposite the end of the Zahara road, a track goes out for about a kilometre to the area known as La Janda. At the T-junction I drove about two kilometres to the left but the area was extremely dry save for the large ditch running parallel to the track. At least 12 Purple Swamp-hens (Purple Gallinule), Coot (22), Moorhen (6+), Quail calling, Griffon Vulture (42) feeding on a dead cow near the N-340, Red Kite, Marsh Harrier, White Stork (4), Cattle Egret (20+), Mallard (c50), Little Egret, Corn Bunting, Iberian Yellow Wagtail, Calandra Lark, Goldfinch, Linnet, Little Ringed Plover (7) and Spoonbill (5).

Cattle Egrets (36) and a White Stork feeding in a field in the process of being ploughed. Pair of Tawny Pipits and an Iberian Yellow Wagtail also in the field. Stonechat (pr). Two Griffons overhead. Spotless Starling and House Sparrow. Corn Bunting, Calandra Lark and Linnet singing.

White Stork (Ciconia ciconia), La ZarzuelaCattle Egret flock (Bulbulcus ibis), La ZarzuelaCattle Egret (Bulbulcus ibis), La Zarzuela



Day 8

Wednesday 6 April 2005
Zahara de los Atunes > Barbate > Bolonia
Warm, partly cloudy, light wind

A dozen Greater Flamingos still present in the estuary along with a Spoonbill in one of the former salt pans.

Sardinian Warbler, Serin, Goldfinch, Booted Eagle, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Greenfinch. Great Tit and late (or resting migrant) Song Thrush in the Umbrella Pine Forest in the dunes below the Sierra Plata. Yellow-legged Gull and Sandwich Tern around the breaking waves. Got close, but brief, views of a Ladder Snake behind the foreshore on the edge of the forest - probably about a metre and a half in length. Hobby hawking over the lower slopes in the military zone. Opposite the Roman remains site there is a pool on the foreshore: Grey Plover (2), Sanderling (14), Kentish Plover (6), Ringed Plover (4) and a single Redshank.

Stone Pine Cone on DuneStone or Umbrella Pine (Pinus pinea) Woodland



Day 9

Thursday 7 April 2005
Zahara de los Atunes > Cabo Trafalgar > Sierra del Retín
Warm, partly cloudy, light wind

Two Black Kites flying along the shoreline.

Audouin's Gull (11) flying around the tide line to the east of the lighthouse. Balearic Shearwater (16) close inshore. Cory's Shearwater (2) further out. Sandwich Tern (7) on the rocks. Kentish Plover (10+), Sanderling (c30), Ringed Plover (4), Yellow-legged Gull, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, Blackbird and a Meadow Pipit.

Flock of Bee-eaters (9) arrived in off the sea at 1235h.

Two groups of Bee-eater (32 + 12) flew northeast. Hoopoe (4), Woodchat Shrike (2 prs), Booted Eagle (1), Great Tit (3 prs), Blue Tit, Small Copper, Moroccan Orange Tip and Spanish Festoon. Masses of finches in the oak woodland on the hill: Serin, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, and Chaffinch.

Marsh Harrier (2), Montagu's Harrier (2), Calandra, Short-toed and Crested Larks common. Single Meadow Pipit, Linnet (pr), Red-legged Partridge (2 prs), Corn Bunting and Cattle Egret (2). Another Montagu's Harrier on the edge of Zahara briefly landed right in front of the car by the roadside.

Griffon Vulture (Gyps fulvus), Sierra de RetinOil Beetle (Berberomeloe majalis), Zahara de los AtunesWoodchat Shrike (Lanius senator), Sierra de Retin



Day 10

Friday 8 April 2005
Zahara de los Atunes > Valle de Ojén, Parque Natural de los Alcornocales
Warm, cloudy, little wind

Observations from the new dam along the eastern side of this small estuary. Spoonbill (1), Hoopoe (1), Black-winged Stilt (1), Iberian Yellow Wagtail (6), Woodchat Shrike (1), Montagu's Harrier (m), Common Sandpiper (4), Nightingale (singing m), Mallard (pr + 4 o/h), Corn Bunting (3 singing mm), Collared Dove, Linnet (2), Crested Lark, Spotless Starling (20+), Barn Swallow (c50), House Sparrow, Grey Heron (3), Cattle Egret (6), Meadow Pipit (1), Stonechat (m), Calandra Lark, Feral Pigeon, House Martin, and Goldfinch (11).

Griffon Vulture (15) at the park entrance. The following distance markers are from the Parque Natural sign at the park entrance a few kilometres from Facinas. Tawny Pipit and Jay the Embalse de Almodóvar. Arroyo del Tiradero at Km-11: Party of six Hawfinches in the canopy of the open Cork Oak woodland - very active and mobile, calling regularly. Nightingale (4 singing mm), Western Bonelli's Warbler (3 singing mm), Cuckoo (2 singing mm), Blackcap (several singing mm), Bee-eater (3 o/h), Swift sp. (40 o/h), Short-toed Treecreeper, Blue Tit, Blackbird, Wren, Robin, Griffon Vulture (4 o/h), Jay (1), Iberian Chiffchaff (2 singing mm), Kestrel, Stonechat, Kingfisher flew downstream, Goldfinch, Sardinian Warbler, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Barn Swallow, Roe Deer, Wall Brown, Woodlark displaying and a Sparrowhawk over the road. Jay at Km-11.8, Bee-eater (4) hawking Hymenoptera in the open oak canopy from perches on dead branches at Km-12. Iberian Chiffchaff at Km-12.3.

Sendero Arroyo de San Carlos del Tiradero at Km-12.4
Light rain. Chaffinch, Blackcap, Blue Tit and Robin around the information board. Speckled Wood (21) counted along approximately one kilometre of the trail. Green Hairstreak Callophrys rubi and a couple of Spanish Festoons in a clearing of ankle-high scrub. Grey Wagtail on the stream. Short-toed Treecreeper, Blue Tit, Blackcap, Common Buzzard, Chaffinch, Wren, Jay, Goldfinch, Robin and a Wall Lasiommata megera. The sun was out when I returned to the start of the trail where a Queen of Spain Fritillary Issoria lathonia was buzzing around along with two Brimstones Gonepteryx rhamni and a Sparrowhawk over the road.

Nice area of mature oak woodland at Km-12.7 held Nuthatch (pr), Bonelli's Warbler singing in the leafless canopy, Blackcap, Robin, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit, and a Bee-eater overhead. Male Woodchat Shrike on a fence post at Km-13.2. Female Stonechat at Km-13.6. Short-toed Treecreeper singing and Griffon Vulture overhead at Km-14.9. At Km-15.6 there are good views over the valley to the right and the hill to the left: Booted Eagle (pale morph), Bee-eaters going over, Red-legged Partridges calling and a pair of Stonechats. Short-toed Eagle (3), Griffon Vulture (16), Serin (2), Barn Swallow (4), Kestrel, Sardinian Warbler, Blue Tit and Chaffinch at Km-17.5. Nightingale and Stonechat at Km-18.7. Redstart (m) at Km-19.2. Corn Buntings singing at Km-19.6. Zitting Cisticola displaying at Km-19.7. Bee-eater (14), Stonechat (pr), Corn Bunting, House Martin (70+), Barn Swallow (40+), Swift sp (50+), Griffon Vulture, Cuckoo and a flock of around 100 Goldfinches at Km-20.2. Cetti's Warbler and Blackcap singing near the stream at Km-20.9. Wren and Blue Tit singing at Km-20.7. Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Chaffinch singing at Km-21.1 with four Griffon Vultures overhead. Km-21.2: came to the end of the track at the main road to Los Barrios (200 metres after a Km-25 milestone) where there was a male Cleopatra and a singing Nightingale.

White Stork on a nest at Km-99. Griffon Vulture (2) and Common Kestrel (2) overhead at Km-98. Two White Stork nests on pylons at the Venta de Frenazo.

Montagu's Harrier at Tahivilla and two Bee-eaters at La Zarzuela.

Cork Oak (Quercus suber) Woodland, Valle de OjénLarge Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis polychloros), Valle de OjénCommon Toad (Bufo bufo), Valle de Ojén



Day 11

Saturday 9 April 2005
Zahara de los Atunes > Sierra del Retín > Marismas del Barbate
Very warm, blue sky, light wind

Western Orphean Warbler in the few oaks by the prickly pear hedge running parallel to the Zahara road. Usual species at this site including Hoopoe, Woodchat Shrike, Bee-eater, Griffon Vulture, Booted Eagle, Serin and White Stork.

Greater Flamingo (12), Gull-billed Tern (1), Spoonbill (1), Greenshank (2), Ringed Plover (100+), Dunlin (15+), Kentish Plover (20+), Spectacled Warbler (2) found in the low, salt-tolerant scrub in the marshes, Little Egret (2), Grey Heron (1), Spotless Starling, Pallid Swift, Barn Swallow, Crested Lark, Iberian Yellow Wagtail, Yellow-legged Gull, Stonechat, and House Sparrow.

Marismas de Barbate & Sierra de RetinBlack-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus), Marismas de BarbateParque Natural de la Marismas del Barbate



Day 12

Sunday 10 April 2005
Zahara de los Atunes > Parque Natural del Acantilado y Pinar de Barbate > Cádiz > Jerez > London
Very warm, blue sky, light wind

While driving this stretch of road near the end of the Sierra de Retín, I glimpsed a small group of birds circling fairly high about 500-750 metres offshore and registered that they were not raptors. Stopped and picked them up (seven birds) in the binoculars (no 'scope with me due to the nature/purpose of this trip) and immediately likened them to large, black Curlews, though were about Shag-size but with obviously different proportions. I was about to presume Glossy Ibis but while a long decurved beak was apparent, the neck seemed shorter and there were no trailing legs behind the fairly short squarish tail. Wings were long, particularly the outer area of primary feathers and flight was strong and not laborious like most of the raptors coming in off the sea. The bright sunlight and limited magnification made it difficult to detect plumage features other than uniform black. Their behaviour puzzled me since they appeared to track back and forth over a kilometre or so giving the impression they were not quite sure where they were headed - drifting towards shore before heading out to sea again. At times they soared in a close group before changing directional flight. If this had been Morocco I would have been pretty sure to call Northern Bald Ibis but surely not here in Spain!?

Thanks to Dr. Ernest Garcia for clearing up the mystery for me. Apparently 20 Northern Bald Ibises were released in the Sierra de Retín from captive-bred stock in Jerez Zoo. Reintroduction of this highly-endangered species began in December 2004 into a large area of wilderness owned by the Spanish military. This area is off limits to the public but depending on breeding success it would seem likely that future sightings may be possible from the Zahara to Barbate road (CA-2223) and the Zahara (CA-2221) road from the N-340 and perhaps even in La Janda area.

Sardinian Warbler, Nightingale, Great Tit, Wren, Blue Tit, Greenfinch, Blackbird, Serin, Goldfinch, Blackcap, Common Blues Polyommatus icarus numerous along the cliff top with smaller numbers of Black-eyed Blues Glaucopsyche melanops.

Torre del Tajo
Swallowtail Papilio machaon, Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta, Clouded Yellow Colias crocea, Black-eyed Blue, Cleopatra and Common Blue. Kestrel, Jackdaw, Feral Rock Dove, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Barn Swallow, House Sparrow, Bee-eater (7) and nest building Yellow-legged Gulls.

Only birds of note on the drive to the airport were a few hundred Greater Flamingos in the Bahía de Cádiz area, particularly where the N-IV crosses the Río San Pedro and Río Guadalete.

Barbate CliffYellow-legged Gull (Larus michahellis), Barbate cliffsAtlantic Ocean, Barbate



SPECIES LIST - COSTA DE LA LUZ - SPAIN - 30 Mar > 10 Apr 2005

• Cory's Shearwater

Calonectris diomedea

• Balearic Shearwater

Puffinus mauretanicus

• Gannet

Morus bassanus

• Cormorant

Phalacrocorax carbo

• Shag

Phalacrocorax aristotelis

• Cattle Egret

Bubulcus ibis

• Little Egret

Egretta garzetta

• Grey Heron

Ardea cinerea

• White Stork

Ciconia ciconia

• Spoonbill

Platalea leucorodia

• Northern Bald Ibis*

Geronticus eremita*

• Greater Flamingo

Phoenocopteris ruber

• Mallard

Anas platyrhynchos

• Griffon Vulture

Gyps fulvus

• Osprey

Pandion haliaetus

• Short-toed Eagle

Circaetus gallicus

• Booted Eagle

Hieraaetus pennatus

• Red Kite

Milvus milvus

• Black Kite

Milvus migrans

• Marsh Harrier

Circus aeruginosus

• Montagu's Harrier

Circus pygargus

• Common Buzzard

Buteo buteo

• Sparrowhawk

Accipiter nisus

• Common Kestrel

Falco tinnunculus

• Lesser Kestrel

Falco naumanni

• Hobby

Falco subbuteo

• Red-legged Partridge

Alectoris rufa

• Quail

Coturnix coturnix

• Pheasant

Phasianus colchicus

• Moorhen

Gallinula chloropus

• Eurasian Coot

Fulica atra

• Purple Swamp-hen

Porphyrio porphyrio

• Black-winged Stilt

Himantopus himantopus

• Little Ringed Plover

Charadrius dubius

• Ringed Plover

Charadrius hiatcula

• Kentish Plover

Charadrius alexandrinus

• Grey Plover

Pluvialis squatarola

• Sanderling

Calidris alba

• Dunlin

Calidris alpina

• Common Sandpiper

Tringa ochropus

• Redshank

Tringa totanus

• Greenshank

Tringa nebularia

• Curlew

Numenius arquata

• Great Skua

Stercorarius skua

• Black-headed Gull

Larus ridibundus

• Mediterranean Gull

Larus melanocephalus

• Yellow-legged Gull

Larus michahellis

• Audouin's Gull

Larus audouinii

• Lesser Black-backed Gull

Larus fuscus

• Sandwich Tern

Sterna sandvicensis

• Gull-billed Tern

Sterna nilotica

• Feral Rock Dove

Columba livia

• Collared Dove

Streptopelia decaocto

• Turtle Dove

Streptopelia turtur

• Cuckoo

Cuculus canorus

• Tawny Owl

Strix aluco

• Common Swift

Apus apus

• Pallid Swift

Apus pallidus

• Little Swift

Apus affinis

• Hoopoe

Upupa epops

• Kingfisher

Alcedo atthis

• Bee-eater

Merops apiaster

• Great Spotted Woodpecker

Dendrocopus major

• Crested Lark

Galerida cristata

• Thekla Lark

Galerida theklae

• Woodlark

Lullula arborea

• Short-toed Lark

Calandrella brachydactyla

• Calandra Lark

Melanocorypha calandra

• Crag Martin

Ptyonoprogne rupestris

• Barn Swallow

Hirundo rustica

• Red-rumped Swallow

Hirundo daurica

• House Martin

Delichon urbica

• Tawny Pipit

Anthus campestris

• Meadow Pipit

Anthus pratensis

• Iberian Yellow Wagtail

Motacilla flava iberiae

• Grey Wagtail

Motacilla cinerea

• Wren

Troglodytes troglodytes

• Common Bulbul

Pycnonotus barbatus

• Robin

Erithacus rubecula

• Nightingale

Luscinia megarhynchos

• Redstart

Phoenicurus phoenicurus

• Black-eared Wheatear

Oenanthe hispanica

• Stonechat

Saxicola torquata

• Blue Rock Thrush

Monticola solitarius

• Song Thrush

Turdus philomelos

• Blackbird

Turdus merula

• Blackcap

Sylvia atricapilla

• Western Orphean Warbler

Sylvia hortensis

• Sardinian Warbler

Sylvia melanocephala

• Spectacled Warbler

Sylvia conspicillata

• Subalpine Warbler

Sylvia cantillans

• Dartford Warbler

Sylvia undata

• Zitting Cisticola

Cisticola juncidis

• Cetti's Warbler

Cettia cetti

• Western Bonelli's Warbler

Phylloscopus bonelli

• Iberian Chiffchaff


• Pied Flycatcher

Ficedula hypoleuca

• Great Tit

Parus major

• Coal Tit

Parus ater

• Blue Tit (Continental race)

Parus caeruleus caeruleus

• Blue Tit (NW African race)

Parus caeruleus ultramarinus

• Nuthatch

Sitta europaea

• Short-toed Treecreeper

Certhia brachydactyla

• Woodchat Shrike

Lanius senator

• Magpie

Pica pica

• Jay

Garrulus glandarius

• Jackdaw

Corvus monedula

• Spotless Starling

Sturnus unicolor

• House Sparrow

Passer domesticus

• Tree Sparrow

Passer montanus

• Chaffinch (Continental race)

Fringilla coelebs coelebs

• Chaffinch (NW African race)

Fringilla coelebs africana

• Linnet

Carduelis cannabina

• Goldfinch

Carduelis carduelis

• Greenfinch

Carduelis chloris

• Serin

Serinus serinus

• Bullfinch

Pyrrhula pyrrhula

• Hawfinch

Coccothraustes coccothraustes

• Cirl Bunting

Emberiza cirlus

• Corn Bunting

Emberiza calandra

• Rock Bunting

Emberiza cia

• House Bunting

Emberiza striolata sahari

* reintroduced from captive-bred stock




Papilio machaon

Spanish Festoon

Zerynthia rumina

Large White

Pieris brassicae

Small White

Artogeia rapae

Green-veined White

Artogeia napi

Bath White 

Pontia daplidice

Western Dappled White

Euchloe crameri

Green-striped White

Euchloe belemia

Moroccan Orange Tip

Anthocaris euphenoides

Clouded Yellow

Colias crocea


Gonepteryx rhamni


Gonepteryx cleopatra

Green Hairstreak

Callophrys rubi

Provence Hairstreak

Tomares ballus

Small Copper

Lycaena phlaeas

Holly Blue

Celastrina argiolus

Black-eyed Blue

Glaucopsyche melanops

Brown Argus

Aricia agestis

Common Blue

Polyommatus icarus


Danaus plexippus

Large Tortoiseshell

Nymphalis polychlorus

Red Admiral

Vanessa atalanta

Painted Lady

Vanessa cardui

Queen of Spain Fritillary

Issoria lathonia

Speckled Wood

Pararge aegeria


Lasiommata megera

Mallow Skipper

Carcharodus alceae

or False Mallow Skipper

C. tripolinus


Previous Trip Reports:  2023 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2003

All photographs © 2005  F. S. Simpson


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