Well to say that Tarifa is windy was an understatement for this field meeting. As we stood in the car park of Lidl I was wondering what would happen if we all went to the observation point just outside Tarifa. We would have been sand blasted for the full day and would have seen nothing. After a quick conflab with other senior members we had a plan. We split the group into two, with one party going to La Janda and Barbate and the other doing a grand loop along the motorway and then into the hills past reservoirs where we expected to find the raptors, then via Benalup to the top end of La Janda. Off we went, Bob taking the group to La Janda and the other group with myself and Derek. After a quick dash up the motorway towards Medina-Sidonia (A 381) where we spotted an Osprey sitting on a pole in the lake, we turned on to the A-2226 where we expected to find the raptors waiting for the wind to drop. After a few Km we stopped at the side of the road and watched several raptors trying to fly down the valley and some sitting on the pylons. An adult Egyptian Vulture did a low fly-past, and there were Short-toed Eagles, Griffon Vultures and many Booted Eagles. After a short while we continued along the road until we found a safer place to stop and here we watched the next group of raptors trying to make some progress down the valley. Seeing that the birds were coming from the same dip in the ridge, we moved on and stopped in the car park of a small venta where we could observe the raptors and enjoy some well deserved coffee.
Now knowing where we were, I took the lead and continued along the A-2226 spotting some very big ducks in the Embalse del Celemin. Along with the 100 or so Mallard we found geese which looked to be Greylag, however we do not think they were wild, but feral, since one seemed a bit too white. As we moved on we spotted the first of several Marsh Harriers, quartering a wheat field. It was soon followed by another just before the turning to La Janda, so we stopped to have a look. Whilst showing some members the lowest storks nests in Spain the shout went out for a Black-winged Kite and there it was, this beautiful small Kite with up-turned wings struggling against the wind. The bird finally made it to a dead tree and we all had a chance of viewing it.
Off we went again, following the farm track to the rice paddies. I was looking for one that was not too full and with some muddy patches which was soon found. It was a treat watching lots of the common birds along with some more scarce ones. Then a cloud of Glossy Ibis filled the sky and the colours were spectacular, they soon settled and the hunt was on to find them amongst the rice. This was the best spot and many more birds were found in the rice. Sometimes there were 3 or more species in the field of view. The highlight of this spot were up to four Wood Sandpiper hiding with the Common Snipe and Green Sandpipers. We had a brief view of a Little Bittern, and a Squacco Heron was also found.
Stomachs were grumbling so we set off once again over the ridge towards the ‘smelly’ farm, (it must have been once but I have never found it too smelly). We had lunch overlooking the fields behind the farm, and whilst searching for more Black-winged Kites several Honey Buzzards flew low over us. Some members were still taking photos of the dragonfly that they had found sitting on a bush, but they soon left it to have a look at the Honey Buzzards.
After lunch we made our way towards the grand canal that runs through the middle of the rice fields. As we drove over the hill we spotted a cloud of dust behind the harvester although as we drove closer we realised that it was not dust but Cattle Egrets – hundreds of them. I drove quickly to the small river to see whether we could get a photo of the Egrets but they were just too far away for my camera. I waited for the rest of the convoy to catch up and we stopped here for a while looking for more Black-winged Kite. As we followed the road towards the canal I stopped for a scan down one of the farm tracks that are closed to most birders and sitting in the middle was a young Montagu’s Harrier. When we stopped it flew off but the wind was so strong it struggled to get away and we were able to get ahead of the bird and get some fine views as it flew past. We spent some time at the end of this road just before it crosses the bridge on to the main road watching the harrier along with some other birders. A quick dash was made to the sluice gates to see what we could find but it was impossible to get to the top as the wind was just too strong. We were fortunate to see 3 large flocks of Black Storks flying across La Janda, and there were many White Storks on the ground. This is where it was decided to bring the meeting to an end as it was close to 04.30 we had to get home before it got too dark. Thanks to all that attended and I hope the trip back in the spring will be as successful as this one.
Frank Hair – ABS-member