Reports came through during Semana Blanca of a Wallcreeper being seen on the infamous Caminito del Rey to the north of Málaga, in the area that is known as El Chorro, or to give it its full title the Paraje Natural Desfiladero de los Gaitanes. Pedro Cantelejo Espejo had seen the bird on the 25th of February and through his friend Francisco, the information was disseminated on social media. A large group of local Spanish birders visited the site on the Sunday, 1st March and saw and photographed the bird.
One week later, I was due to meet up with friends and ABS members, Ricky, Sonia, Derek and Barbara early in the morning on Saturday to see if we could see the bird. Tickets for the Caminito del Rey were already fully booked for the whole of March, so the only option was to arrive at the site early in the hope of obtaining one of the 50 cash only tickets that would permit entry on to the this mountain hugging footpath. I had done part of the Caminito nearly 30 years ago, when the route was in a sorry state of repair, and quite frankly lethal. However, the new walkway was opened 5 years ago and is an incredible experience for anyone who is not a sufferer of vertigo! However, due to personal reasons, I was not able to go and meet the others at the site. Later that day, Oliver Reville sent me a message saying that he was going up to to El Chorro on Sunday morning and passing through Marbella, if I wanted a lift. Alarm set for 6:00 am, and off on the road at 06:30.
Tickets bought and once through the entrance, a the short walk to arrive at the boardwalk itself. We had literally gone 5 metres and I spotted the bird on the rocks to the left. We quickly got our cameras on to the bird and fired off a few shots before it flew off south down the gorge. We knew that it was faithful to an area about 400m further down the gorge and we quickly picked it up again there. Despite the passing traffic of hundreds of daytrippers, we watched the bird for about 2 hours in the company of José Marquez from Córdoba and his friend. It was difficult to photograph, since it always seemed to prefer the shadows on the opposite side of the gorge, before flying to our side, hiding in a small under-hang beneath the path, partially out of sight. Anyway, over a 1000 shots later, we left the bird and continued to enjoy the rest of this amazing walkway. It is a one-way linear route, so even though we had seen the bird in the first half a kilometre, we had to complete the rest of the walk in beautiful light and very warm temperatures. Once finished, you must catch a bus back to the start to pick up your car.
The Wallcreeper is a scarce winter visitor to the area and I believe the last time it was recorded at El Chorro was some 3 years ago. It breeds in the north of Spain, in the Pyrenees and disperses in the winter, but we were very lucky to catch up with this bird so far south in the Iberian Peninsula.
Kevin Wade ABS Member. All photos by: Kevin Wade