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Messing about in Andalucía; birds, butterflies, and other bichos
February 8, 2015
12:01 pm
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Matt
Málaga, Spain
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My wife and I recently relocated from Barcelona in the north to Málaga in the south of Mediterranean Spain. It is a stunning part of the world with lots of cool wildlife, so having just bought a compact camera with a decent zoom on it (no way to afford a proper telephoto for the SLR right now) I thought it might be nice to start a faintly self-indulgent thread in order to show some of the stuff other than fishes and 'fibians that we see down here. In particular, Andalucía is a hotspot for birds, and the Straits of Gibraltar represent a key passage point for thousands of raptors, storks and other species migrating between Africa and Europe in spring and autumn. 

We are currently staying with mum-in-law, and her garden is at the top of a cliff overlooking the beach. A pair of Falco tinnunculus (kestrel) have been frequenting these cliffs and the roofs of buildings at their base since late August.

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Other stuff seen in the garden this week...

Sylvia melanocephala (Sardinian warbler), male

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 Passer domesticus (house sparrow), male

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Carduelis carduelis (goldfinch), male

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 Sturnus unicolor (spotless starling)

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 Myiopsitta monachus (monk parakeet), an introduced and increasingly invasive species.

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Streptopelia decaocto (collared dove)

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 Vanessa atalanta (red admiral)

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Cake or death?
February 8, 2015
12:27 pm
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Matt
Málaga, Spain
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Our local spot for birding is a series of lagoons at the mouth of the Río Guadalhorce in Málaga. On Monday it was windy so not much about that I could get pics of.

Himantopus himantopus (black-winged stilt)

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 Tachybaptus ruficollis (little grebe)

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Oxyura leucocephala (white-headed duck), male and female.

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Phalacrocorax carbo (cormorant) - large numbers of overwintering birds currently at the site.

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Identification required; Circus aeruginosus (marsh harrier)[email protected]@Colin ?

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 Finally, some shots of the site.

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Cake or death?
February 8, 2015
3:11 pm
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Graham Ramsay
Blairgowrie - UK
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Nice pics. Your harrier, at least in the first pic, has the look of an osprey to me.

February 8, 2015
9:47 pm
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Matt
Málaga, Spain
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Aaaah, certainly wouldn't be the first sighting here. Cheers Graham, and glad you enjoyed the pics! Presumably you like a nice bird too?Laugh

On Wednesday we took a drive to El Torcal de Antequera, a lump of uplifted seabed that currently forms a small karstic range with impressive rock formations and nice views over the Montes de Málaga and Río Guadalhorce valley. It was super-windy and there was a little ice on the ground so not much life about (it is usually good for raptors here), but we came prepared for cold conditions and had a great time!

View from El Torcal towards Montes de Málaga (left and centre), Med in the background and the Guadalhorce Valley with airport visible in the centre-right.

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Typical rock formations at El Torcal - look at the trees to understand the magnitude.

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Deep(-ish) inside El Torcal...

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When the sun comes out, which is usual (our day was a bit odd weather-wise due to the recent cold snap in Spain), El Torcal really is gorgeous.

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One of the advantages of sh**y weather is the lack of other simians! We managed to get right up inside a group of Capra pyrenaica (ssp. hispanica; southeastern Spanish ibex), which there's little chance of seeing if the place is full of monkeys as in summer.

Mum ibex.

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Dad

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Munchkin

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Goat face...

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Goat biotope

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Will resist obvious gag for fear of chauvinistic accusations, as males of Parus major (great tit) and Cyanistes caeruleus (blue tit) share a perch).

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Female Phoenicurus ochruros (black redstart)

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Galerida theklae (Thekla lark - think so)?

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ç

Cheers, goat-and-bird world!

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We decided to return by the original way rather than autopista, which was waaay prettier!

Looking back at El Torcal from the town of Villanueva de la Concepción.

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The Río Campaníllas drains this part of the sierra, but it is dead in terms of native ichthyofauna.

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 Looking back at El Torcal from the Río Campanillós valley.

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Reason the river is knackered? Literally, centuries of dam construction for agriculture on its affluents, and more recently a series of hydroelectric projects over its short (50 km approx.) length have completely destroyed the sub aquatic ecosystem. The lakes have been artificially stocked with notoriously destructive invaders such as Cyprinus carpio (common carp) and Micropterus salmoides (black bass), and in terms of autochthonous fishes we've never found a thing of note here, even in the  relatively clean upper reaches.

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Although heavily-altered from its natural state, much of Málaga province is beautiful at this time of year, however, with almond trees blossoming everywhere. Could be a lot worse!

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Cake or death?
February 8, 2015
10:35 pm
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Graham Ramsay
Blairgowrie - UK
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Yes I've been watching birds since I was a kid. I did a fair bit when I was in the RAF back in the 80s. Locally around the Eden estuary in Fife and abroad in Cyprus, Falkland Islands etc. Also did a lot when I lived in Saudi Arabia (recorded first breeding of Vanellus leucurus and first record of Saxicola caprata). I should try and do more now, plenty to see here.

Your lark looks more chunky and shorter-billed than the zillions of crested larks I've seen so thekla seems reasonable to me but it's not a bird I'm at all familiar with.

February 9, 2015
2:48 am
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Plaamoo
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Lots of great pics Matt, thanks for sharing! Love the goat biotope! :)

February 13, 2015
1:02 pm
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Matt
Málaga, Spain
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If you ever fancy a trip over, Graham...

Cheers Jim, I am currently unemployed so trying to get out of the house as much as possible hehe.

Some more stuff seen around the house and vicinity over the last few days.

Loxia curvirostra (crossbill). Juvenile?

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Lots more M. monachus - they are everywhere in the urbanised part of the costa and are apparently outcompeting native birds in some cases.

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 Motacilla alba (white wagtail), male.

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Identification required - two pics of the same bird. Closest I've managed is Locustella naevia (grasshopper warbler) but that would be pretty odd in these parts.

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There is a little-used road that exits Torremolinos, passes under the autopista and leads into the Sierra de Mijas, not 10 minutes from 'home'.

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 Falco tinnunculus (kestrel) quartering the mountainside.

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 Saxicola torquatus (stonechat), male.

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Fringilla coelebs (chaffinch), male.

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Cake or death?
February 13, 2015
2:07 pm
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Took a short trip to El Chorro and Laguna Fuente de Piedra on Tuesday and Wednesday.

At El Chorro the road we wanted to take was closed for maintenance so we decided to go to a nearby feeding station to see if we could get good views of Gyps fulvus (griffon vulture) from there. The station is not officially open to the public but can be approached, just be prepared for the awful stench! There were a few individuals sitting in the trees as we arrived, then suddenly the sky turned black and we were surrounded by at least 200 vultures, some of which flew within a few metres of us as they whirled on the thermals above the gorge. A small group could also be seen fighting over something on the rocks below. Spectacular!

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 Now for my next victim...

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The feeding station is fenced for protection of both birds and humans since it occupies a rocky ledge at the top of a huge limestone precipice.

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 Driving out of El Chorro.

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We stayed in a cabin near the town of Fuente de Piedra and the next morning I was up at dawn for a quick pre-breakfast foray to the lagoon. It is a very important site for waterbirds year-round, and in winter is home to tens of thousands of overwintering gulls.

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The lake is one of the most important sites for Phoenicopterus roseus (greater flamingo) in Europe, and in favourable years as many as 20,000 breeding pairs can be found. Here, two first year birds enjoy the sunrise.

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 A small group of adults.

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We did a leisurely tour of the unnamed roads surrounding the lagoon during the course of the day and saw plenty of other species, including:

S. torquatus and lots of other small passerines everywhere.

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 Gallinago gallinago (snipe)

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 Anas crecca (teal), male

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Limosa limosa (black-tailed godwit)

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 Vanellus vanellus (northern lapwing)

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 Lanius meridionalis (Iberian grey shrike)

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Significant numbers of overwintering Grus grus (crane) in fields surrounding the lake.

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 Oryctolagus cuniculus (European rabbit)

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At our final stop of the day we found a much bigger group of 200 or so flamingos at the far end of the lagoon, and very distant. Pic only shows a few of them.

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Cake or death?
February 13, 2015
7:35 pm
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Graham Ramsay
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Think your grasshopper warbler is a pipit. Check out those hind claws.

February 17, 2015
6:43 pm
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Matt
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Cheers Graham, any opinion on species? Tree or meadow maybe?

Not much about at the Guadalhorce yesterday due to terrible wind, but did get good views of a young Aguila pennata (booted eagle - pale morph).

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Cake or death?
February 18, 2015
1:02 am
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Graham Ramsay
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Matt said
Cheers Graham, any opinion on species? Tree or meadow maybe?
  
 

The long hind claws and thin bill are characteristics of Anthus pratensis - meadow pipit.

February 23, 2015
5:21 pm
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coelacanth
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I agree on the Osprey, that was my first thought, only just seen this, need to check my notification settings. Same on the Pipit, although I don't profess to be able to distinguish LBJs, if it's by seacliffs I call it a Rock Pipit, inland on grass a Meadow Pipit. Wouldn't know how to tell either from a Tree Pipit (except for being up a tree, which any of them could be).

February 26, 2015
1:46 pm
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Matt
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Cheers both, also have plenty of trouble with LBJ's.Confused

On Monday we visited a nest of Aquila fasciata (Bonelli's eagle) in the Sierra Mijas. Apologies for the images - the nest and birds were quite distant but we didn't want to get any closer for fear of disturbing the pair, which are currently incubating. Superb views through the binoculars and scope though.

Looking down at the Costa del Sol from the habitat.

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 The cliff where the eagles have their nest.

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 The nest is the mass of twigs and branches, most of which is concealed in a crevice, in the centre of the pic. It is massive!

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 Two bad pics of what we assume to be the male.

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On the way back down, a small troop of ibex on the opposite side of the gorge.

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 Wild orchid (Ophrys sp.?) beginning to flower.

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Cake or death?
February 26, 2015
2:44 pm
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Matt
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Next day we went to the nearby Sierra de las Nieves to search for a reported Aquila chrysaetos (golden eagle) pair.

This valley contains one of the last remaining tracts of alcornoque (cork oak) forest remaining in Málaga province.

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 Spring is arriving to the mountains!

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 Searching for eagles...

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 ...and we found them! Mostly flying very high but they were performing pre-nuptial antics for a good while which was amazing to watch.

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Final sight of the day as we drove out of the park was a large group of Ovis orientalis musimon (mouflon) grazing on the grassy lower slopes.

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Cake or death?
March 5, 2015
5:20 pm
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Matt
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The pre-nuptial migration over the Straits of Gibraltar has started.

Species to make the crossing this early include Circaetus gallicus (short-toed eagle), Milvus migrans (black kite), and Ciconia ciconia (white stork). While the former tend to cross individually or in small groups, both of the latter tend to form large flocks.

Our first lookout point of the day, south of the city of Algeciras:

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 Second lookout, with the Mediterranean Sea to our left and Pacific Ocean on the right:

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Third stop right on the coast, north of Tarifa. The birds seen here are black kites but by this point the day was warmer and they were passing much higher.

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It was a relatively quiet day, migration-wise, so we moved over to La Janda, a huge ex-wetland now drained and used primarily for rice-growing.

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 Emberiza calandra (corn bunting)

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 Young male Saxicola torquatus (stonechat)?

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Egretta garzetta (little egret)

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Male Phasianus colchicus (pheasant)

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Distant group of Platalea leucorodia (spoonbill)

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 Milvus migrans (black kite)

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Cake or death?
April 23, 2015
7:03 pm
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Matt
Málaga, Spain
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Ventas de Zafarraya

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 Pyrrhocorax graculus (Alpine chough)

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 Oenanthe leucura (black wheatear)

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Cake or death?
April 28, 2015
1:18 pm
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Matt
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Alhama de Granada and surrounding countryside with the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains in the distance.

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 Fuente de Piedra and overwintering Grus grus (Eurasian crane)

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 Almond blossom is everywhere in Málaga province during spring

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 Northern face of the Sierra de Huma with the Guadalhorce reservoir in front

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 View back at the same reservoir from the Sierra de Huma

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 We came up here to see if the nesting egyptian vultures had arrived yet, but saw only griffon vultures (pics taken beginning of March)...

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 Circaetus gallicus (short-toed eagle) at rest before continuing its migration

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Cake or death?
April 29, 2015
12:14 am
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Graham Ramsay
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Do the vultures get fed?

May 11, 2015
11:47 pm
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Matt
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Yep. See feeding station at this site earlier in thread. Unfortunately the Egyptians still haven't been seen this year - not a good sign.

Cake or death?
May 12, 2015
2:25 pm
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Matt
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Some pics from two excursions to the Straits of Gibraltar in early March. Plenty of raptor migration going on.

One of the most abundant eagles during this period of migration is C. gallicus. This species really seems to struggle crossing the water and often flies in quite low.

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 When they do eventually arrive, they are typically gasping for breath, as seen by the open beak here.004.jpgImage Enlarger

 As if the physical exertion isn't enough, they often have company for the last stretch of the journey...gull id would be appreciated.

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 "Why don't you just shut up?"

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 Milvus migrans (black kite)

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 White and black storks (Ciconia ciconia and C. nigra); the former tend to form large groups whereas the latter arrive singly or in small bands.

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Neophron percnopterus (Egyptian vulture) tend to arrive very high so no chance of a decent pic with my 200 mm lens.

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 Some of the raptor viewpoints on the straits.

Punto Carnero

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 Cazalla (with Africa behind)

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 Tráfico; first shot shows view across the straits to Africa, second one the view towards Tarifa and the Pacific Ocean

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 Short-toed eagle arriving at Tráfico with the African coastline as a backdrop. Really impressive scenes!

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Sometimes, when the levante (easterly wind) is strong, the birds get blown out to sea and arrive further to the northwest, on the beaches west of Tarifa...

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 ...or near the town of Bolonia and the ruined Roman town of Baelo Claudia.

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 Also close to Bolonia is this outcrop with nesting griffon vulture, eagle owl, and later in the year, egyptian vulture.

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One for id. Maybe crested or thekla lark?

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