Birding Spain

Today ends our extraordinary trip to the South coast of Spain.

As you might expect, the first thing that crossed my mind as we landed in Malaga was BIRDS. Where are the birds? Anyway, as we drove to the hotel, I was overjoyed to see my first three birds, Spotless Starling, Yellow-legged Gull, and Monk Parakeet. The next day in Marbella, Spain, we arrived at our resort hotel. I was surprised to see Ravens, more Yellow-legged Gulls, Spotless Starlings, with a few House Sparrows and Eurasian Blackbirds. It was interesting to see the Blackbirds flying amongst the lush green palm trees, and the huge Gulls flying over the buildings.

Marriott Resort Marbella

The next day we drove two hours down to Ronda, Spain.

The scenery was beautiful as we drove through the mountains covered with sparse pine trees. As we drove along, I spotted a red morph Cuckoo, Collared Dove, Black Redstart, and Whinchat.

When we got to the town, we explored the streets and Roman ruins when we came to Puente Nuevo, a huge stone bridge set over a deep gorge. As we approached the landmark, to my sheer delight, Red-billed Chough! (Pronounced Ch-O-w). They were spectacular! Never have I seen such an acrobatic character, flying way up, gliding, then dropping down into the gorge in a daring dive. It was a breathtaking first encounter. On our way back to Marbella we spotted Red-legged Partridge.

The next day we went up to Granada, Spain to see the Alhambra Castle to learn about and see where the ancient Spanish kings and queens ruled. The royal gardens were vast and exquisite…and full of birdlife. I spotted Blackcap, Kestrel, Magpie, Mallard, Spotless Starling, Great and Blue Tits, and House Sparrow. I also spotted a little yellow bird which, at a closer glance, turned out to be an adult male Serin, my first. I was very excited, as this species is not native to the UK. I proceeded to spot several more around the property.

TIMEOUT!

I’m going to point something out about Spain and its that Kestrels are everywhere. I spotted two in the resort, and about ten along the highway on our way to Granada alone. So, if you like certain little birds of prey, head down to Spain.

On the 12th, we went dow to Gibraltar to see the Barbary Macaques. The drive was so pretty, and the hour on the road was worth it. Upon arriving, a Kestrel flew over as we stepped out of the rental van. After taking the cable cars up to the Rock of Gibraltar, we saw the monkeys, which were very entertaining little souls.

Anyway, a male Sardinian Warbler was the highlight of the trip until, as we were leaving, I spotted one of the birds which was on my must-see list. The Blue Rock Thrush.

It was a little ways off, but it had alighted on a branch right before we passed the rock face. I was so thrilled, for real, I couldn’t get any words out. I was lost in the moment, but my Mom took the pictures above as I was watching. Man, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was an adult male, with his powder blue plumage blackened by the lighting. He really topped off the moment when he started singing his Blackbird-like song from his mountaintop perch. It. Was. Awesome.

On the 14th, which is today, we went down to Guadalhorce Nature Reserve, a dry, marshy habitat teeming with birdlife. It would be our last stop before going to the airport. I was not disappointed.

There were two hides on the site, the first one holding an elegant surprise. Greater Flamingo!

Greater Flamingo was on my list, but my chances of spotting one I thought were slim. The birds showed well. There were mostly adults, with a few immature individuals here and there. There were lots of birders out to watch too, and we all watched in awe as they fed in the water and called out with their raspy, honking voices. There were lots of other birds around too. Avocet and Black-winged Stilt waded in the water while probing for worms and bugs. There was a female Stilt sitting on a clutch of four creamy brown and spotted eggs. Plovers ran along the edge of the water, Dunlin, Kentish Plover, and Ringed Plover.

Redshank and Greenshank stood in the midday sun, searching for good things to eat. A Black Tern flew over Sandwich Tern and Common Tern, huddled into a little group. Yellow-legged Gulls, Slender-billed Gulls, and Black-headed Gulls circled in the sky then landed. Grey Wagtail scurried along among the grass. It was an awesome habitat with a variety of different species.

We headed to the second hide before we left and found White-headed Duck, an endangered bird only found in its local range, but he showed well. He was diving every minute or so and coming back up after a little while. He was accompanied by a Little Grebe, a Little Egret, a group of Redhead ducks, and a pair of Coots.

If you ever visit Malaga, I definitely recommend visiting Guadalhorce, for the birds, as well as other fauna and flora.

For this trip I used Collins Bird Guide 2nd Edition: The most complete guide to the birds of Britain and Europe by Lars Svensson, Killian Mullarney, and Dan Zetterström.

I hope you may find this post helpful if traveling in Spain.

Thanks for reading!

-M

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4 thoughts on “Birding Spain

  1. I bet Southern Spain is great during this migration period! I came back from a week in Crete a few days ago where I was lucky enough to connect with several migrant species such as wood warbler, collared and semi-collared flycatchers and subalpine warbler :). We hope to head to Northern Spain this Summer where I’ll have another crack at the infamous lammergeier!

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  2. I am so thankful for the opportunities you have had to see and catalog birds form literally all over the world. I love watching you truly become an expert in this field…according to your age group. This was SO INTERESTING!! Thank you for writing this up and posting!!!

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