A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

Monday, 29 June 2015

Southern Spain Trip Report Day 1

Day 1 - Tuesday 12th August 2014

Arriving at Malaga airport extremely late on the evening of the 11th August, Chris Alex and myself headed straight for our hotel for a good night’s sleep ready to depart bright and early the next morning. With the hire car picked up we were soon well on our way to begin tracking down our first major target of the trip – the rare and localised White-rumped Swift. Our main target for the week, Southern Spain is the only breeding location in Europe for these enigmatic aerial acrobats.

A large flock of swifts circling at the side of the road provided our first Pallid Swifts of the trip, artfully weaving through the air in pursuit of the abundance of insects enjoying the warm weather. Taking in my first ever views of Pallids, the cry soon went up of “Alpine Swift!” A huge swift with a bright white belly was hurtling through the flock, darting over our heads and away over the trees and we had excellent but all too brief views of this super-sized swift. Alpine swift was actually one of my most wanted birds for the trip, and I was especially pleased to have connected so soon on our journey – hopefully our first day would prove to be a “three swift day”! 

Carrying on in to the small village of Jimena de la Frontera, Alex thought he spotted a Spanish Sparrow on one of the railings lining the terracotta coloured houses, catching a brief glimpse as we drove by. There was was no time to stop however (even though this would be a lifer for me!) and I was told that we’d see plenty of Spanish Sparrows on the trip (we didn’t!!) so we carried on our way and in to the scenic Spanish countryside.

Stopping at a small river, the extreme heat of the Southern Spanish summer was apparent (the water had practically dried up) and we regularly reached temperatures nearing 40 degrees throughout the trip – it was impossible to stay out in the harsh sun for too long. Several Crag Martins zoomed by at eye level, nesting in the shade underneath the bridge, whilst a group of Terrapins sunbathed in the shallow water below, evidently loving the sun’s rays!
Terrapin - Spain
Terrapin sunbathing!
There was disappointingly no sign of any White-rumped Swifts in the area, although a female Golden Oriole picked up by Chris and Alex was a nice consolation. 

Getting lost and disorientated down an extremely narrow track (that soon turned in to a surface so potholed and boulder strewn it was like driving on an actual mountain) we had flashbacks of our first hire car’s destruction on our previous trip to Spain, so carefully manoeuvred down the track ensuring the tyres didn’t come off worse for wares. After such careful driving by Alex, it was a bit of a slap in the face to subsequently realise the track was in fact a dead end and that we would somehow have to do a 3 point turn and do it all again to get back to the main road!!
Castellar de la Frontera - Spain
Our second site of Castellar de la Frontera also proved fruitless, with more Pallid and Common Swifts darting around the top of the mountainside, so we headed over to Alcaidesa near San Roque, where our apartment for the next few days was based and conveniently where White-rumped Swifts using the pond opposite to drink were reported just a few days earlier.
Castellar de la Frontera - Spain
Sadly there were no White-rumped Swifts at Castellar de la Frontera
Approaching the area we were greeted by a tremendous swift flock, with hundreds of birds making the most of the afternoon bonanza of flies to feast upon.

A large flock of migrating Black Kites were visible in the distance taking advantage of a thermal, while a small Gecko scurried in and out of the bark in one of the ornamental palm trees lining the road. A showy male Sardinian Warbler serenaded us from a nearby bush, hopping between the branches, his scratchy song carrying on the sunny breeze, whilst cicadas chirruped noisily from the vegetation.
Alcaidesa - Spain
Alcaidesa Golf Resort where the swifts were flying over
Turning our attention to the swifts, the previously distant flock moved ever closer, and after around half an hour eagle-eyed Chris shouted out that he’d got one! In a flock of hundreds of fast moving swifts, getting us all on the White-rumped Swift may have proved a challenge in itself, but despite the trees and the swift being quite distant, both me and Alex managed to pick up the bird in question, the white rump clearly visible and its sheer size and wing length making it stand out from the accompanying House Martins.

With the flock heading closer still, we waited, and miraculously just a few metres above us and directly in front, me and Chris picked up the White-rumped, showing fantastically well and providing exceptional views! Calling Alex over, all 3 of us watched the bird zooming around until it became lost amongst the many hundreds of hirundines in the flock. 

Ecstatic that it was mission success on the swift front, we headed back to the apartment happy, where a Night Heron quietly searching for its evening supper on the pool opposite was a nice end to the day before bed. 
Alcaidesa - Spain

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