Trip Report: Southern Spain, June 13-20, 1996

Mark Dennis, Carlton, Nottingham, England;

A 'cheap' clear-up trip flying from Manchester to Malaga, flight and car arranged through Wildwings at reasonable rates. No accommodation was pre-booked, so we hit the road straight away without problems. The car was a Fiat Punto which proved reliable and economical; in fact we were so impressed with it that we bought one at home when we replaced our car.

In total we did 1,755Km doing a circular tour of Southern Spain. Accommodation was around £25-28.00 per room and varied from a tourist hotel in Torremolinos on the last night, to a four room bar/B&B near La Serena where nobody spoke English and the food was excellent. At El Rocio we stayed in a hotel complex right next to the birding sites which was very nice. The route we followed (roughly) was Malaga - Seville - Sierra Nevada - Laguna de Fuente de Piedra - Extremadura - La Serena - Merida - Coto Donana (El Rocio) - Laguna de Medina - Atlanterra - Rhonda - Teba Gorge - Benidorm. We had no problems at all and even enjoyed the entertainment of two lorries being separated by a mechanical digger on the Ojen Valley road, mainly because we ignored the "road closed" sign, but they didn't seem at all surprised by our being there.

We used Garcia and Paterson's Where to Watch birds in Southern Spain and also the Gosney Southern Spain guide.

Our main targets were Great Bustard, Azure-winged Magpie, Red-necked Nightjar, White-rumped Swift, Black-shouldered Kite, Marbled Duck and my big bogey bird, Lesser Kestrel. As you can see from the list, we only missed out on two, so we have a good excuse to do the trip again, only next time go for two weeks.


Red-necked Nightjar was easy to find. Birds 'sang' around the La Rocina reserve, and we found the track which ran west from the main road, about 200m north of km29 productive. We simply drove down a short way, turned around and crept back. A bird showed very well on the track. Beware the mosquitos here.

White-rumped Swift we located by driving through a housing complex at Atlanterra. We drove as high as we could and parked after the last house. We then waited 20 minutes or so before two flew slowly past. None followed during the next hour, so perhaps we were lucky. Reading the birding press, it seems that Little Swift are now also in this area.

Great Bustards were elusive, but we found them by driving farm tracks off the minor road west of Cabeza del buey on the 420 between Castuera and Cabeza. We also had Little Bustard here but not many.

Coto Doñana access: The route shown in Gosney to Centro Cerrado Garrido is well worth taking, and we had some superb birding for much of the way. We were only in the Coto for a couple of days which is nowhere near long enough.

Bird List

  1. Little Grebe: Common in the Coto Doñana
  2. Great Crested Grebe: Common in the Coto
  3. Black-necked Grebe: Seen on most Coto waters in variable numbers. c120 at Laguna de Medina was the largest concentration.
  4. Cory's Shearwater: Steady movement past Torremolenos.
  5. Mediterranean Shearwater: As above species.
  6. Little Bittern: Seen only on Rio Zujar in on La Serena.
  7. Night Heron: Plentiful in Coto.
  8. Squacco Heron: Only seen in the interior of the Coto near Canada info centre.
  9. Cattle Egret: Thousands around Merida and plentiful in Coto.
  10. Little Egret: Common in Coto.
  11. Grey Heron: Common in Coto.
  12. Purple Heron: Common in Coto.
  13. Black Stork : Seen around Embalse del Zujar and Rio Ardila.
  14. White Stork: Common in Coto and Extramadura/La Serena. On every tower, church etc.
  15. Glossy Ibis: A single breeding bird at Lucio Cerrado Garrido in the Coto.
  16. Spoonbill: Breeding in the Acebuche egret colony.
  17. Greater Flamingo: c150 around Lucio Cerrado Garrido. Lots at Fuenta de Pedre.
  18. Greylag Goose: Several at Lucio Cerrado Garrido
  19. Gadwall: Small numbers in the Coto.
  20. Mallard: Fairly common.
  21. Shoveler: Small numbers in the Coto.
  22. Red-crested Pochard: Seen at El Rocio, and several other Coto sites. Also at Laguna de Medina.
  23. Pochard: Small numbers around Coto.
  24. Ferruginous Duck: c10 birds noted at various Coto sites.
  25. Tufted Duck:: Two at Acebuche and also seen in the Coto interior.
  26. White-headed Duck: A male at Laguna de Medina.
  27. Black Kite: Common.
  28. Red Kite: Just a single at El Rocio.
  29. Egyptian Vulture: A single at Teba Gorge.
  30. Griffon Vulture: Common in the area between Seville and Malaga.
  31. Short-toed Eagle: c15 seen in total in several areas.
  32. Marsh Harrier: Just a single in Coto.
  33. Montagu's Harrier: c30 in total, mainly males and especially frequent around La Serena.
  34. Sparrowhawk: A single near Teba Gorge.
  35. Common Buzzard: A single near Castura.
  36. Spanish Imperial Eagle: A single on La Serena. Three in Coto from El Rocio.
  37. Golden Eagle: Two together at Embalse del Zujar.
  38. Booted Eagle: Three pale 1 dark around Coto.
  39. Bonelli's Eagle: A single at Teba Gorge.
  40. Lesser Kestrel: c20 mainly around La Serena and Coto.
  41. Kestrel: Common.
  42. Hobby: Single at El Rocio.
  43. Peregrine: Nesting at Ronda.
  44. Chukar: One in high Sierra Nevada presumed 'stock' bird?
  45. Red-legged Partridge: Several seen.
  46. Water Rail: Breeding at Fuenta de Pedre.
  47. Moorhen: Common.
  48. Purple Gallinule: Easy to see at La Rocina and Acebuche.
  49. Coot: Common.
  50. Crested Coot: A single at Laguna de Medina.
  51. Little Bustard: A single on La Serena.
  52. Great Bustard: Two on La Serena with one very close.
  53. Black-winged Stilt: Common.
  54. Avocet: c450 around Coto.
  55. Stone-curlew: Several on La Serena.
  56. Collared Pratincole: Very common around Coto and La Serena. c600+ seen altogether.
  57. Little Ringed Plover: Several at Fuenta de Pedre.
  58. Kentish Plover: Single only in Coto.
  59. Lapwing: Two in Coto.
  60. Redshank: Several in Coto.
  61. Greenshank: Single in Coto.
  62. Green Sandpiper: Seen Coto and Fuenta de Pedre.
  63. Wood Sandpiper: Single Coto.
  64. Black-headed Gull: Plentiful at several sites.
  65. Yellow-legged Gull: Seen around most coastal sites.
  66. Gull-billed Tern: Very common in Coto, Fuenta de Pedre.
  67. Whiskered Tern: Hundreds in the Coto.
  68. Black Tern: Small numbers in Coto.
  69. Black-bellied Sandgrouse: Four seen on La Serena.
  70. Pin-tailed Sandgrouse: c60 seen on La Serena.
  71. Rock Dove: Pure? birds at several mountain sites.
  72. Woodpigeon: Common in places.
  73. Collared Dove: Common.
  74. Turtle Dove: Fairly common.
  75. Laughing Dove: A single at the Alhambra Palace presumed escape.
  76. Cuckoo: Two seen.
  77. Little Owl: Common La Serena and Coto.
  78. Red-necked Nightjar: Close views in headlights on one on La Rocina track.
  79. Swift: Common.
  80. Pallid Swift: Seen mostly around towns.
  81. Alpine Swift: Common especially Ronda and other mountain sites.
  82. White-rumped Swift: Two at Atlanterra.
  83. Bee-eater: Common in Coto.
  84. Roller: Common in upland areas. Nests in many boxes on La Serena.
  85. Hoopoe: Common.
  86. Great Spotted Woodpecker: Seen around mountain woodlands.
  87. Calandra Lark: Common on La Serena, also around La Janda.
  88. Short-toed Lark: Common in Coto.
  89. Lesser Short-toed Lark: Present in small numbers in Coto.
  90. Crested Lark: Common.
  91. Theckla Lark: Seen in mountains near Ronda.
  92. Woodlark: Seen at Acebuche.
  93. Sand Martin: Common.
  94. Crag Martin: Common in uplands.
  95. Swallow: Common.
  96. Red-rumped Swallow: Common.
  97. House Martin: Common.
  98. Yellow Wagtail: Scarce. Only seen around Coto.
  99. Grey Wagtail: Common around mountain streams.
  100. White Wagtail: Common.
  101. Wren: Seen around mountain woods.
  102. Alpine Accentor: Breeding in disused ski lift at Sierra Nevada.
  103. Robin: Only seen in uplands.
  104. Nightingale: Common.
  105. Black Redstart: Restricted to uplands.
  106. Stonechat: Common.
  107. Wheatear: Fairly common.
  108. Black-eared Wheatear: Only 2 seen.
  109. Black Wheatear: Seen at Ronda from the high bridge.
  110. Rock Thrush: 2/3 around Sierra Nevada.
  111. Blue Rock Thrush: Common in uplands.
  112. Blackbird: Common.
  113. Mistle Thrush: Fairly common.
  114. Cetti's Warbler: Common around Coto.
  115. Fan-tailed Warbler: Fairly common around wetlands.
  116. Savi's Warbler: Common around El Rocina and Acebuche.
  117. Reed Warbler: Common in Coto.
  118. Great Reed Warbler: Common in Coto.
  119. Melodious Warbler: Common in Coto.
  120. Spectacled Warbler: Single in Coto.
  121. Subalpine Warbler: 2/3 seen.
  122. Sardinian Warbler: Plentiful.
  123. Blackcap: Common.
  124. Firecrest: Single in mountains.
  125. Spotted Flycatcher: Several seen.
  126. Blue Tit: Common.
  127. Great Tit: Common.
  128. Nuthatch: Heard and seen in uplands.
  129. Short-toed Treecreeper: Fairly easy to see.
  130. Golden Oriole: Three seen around Acebuche.
  131. Southern Grey Shrike: common by roadside.
  132. Woodchat Shrike: Common.
  133. Jay: Seen in uplands.
  134. Azure-winged Magpie: Common around woods. Fairly tame at Acebuche.
  135. Magpie: Common.
  136. Chough: Common in uplands.
  137. Jackdaw: Common.
  138. Carrion Crow: Several seen.
  139. Raven: Common.
  140. Spotless Starling: Very common.
  141. House Sparrow: Common.
  142. Spanish Sparrow: Fairly common around La Serena.
  143. Tree Sparrow: Seen around Acebuche.
  144. Rock Sparrow: Common around the bridge in Ronda.
  145. Chaffinch: Common.
  146. Serin: Common.
  147. Greenfinch: Common.
  148. Goldfinch: Common.
  149. Linnet: Common.
  150. Cirl Bunting: Seen in the mountains.
  151. Rock Bunting: Common in the mountains.
  152. Reed Bunting: Seen only at Acebuche.
  153. Corn Bunting: Common.



Return to trip reports.

This page served with permission of the author by Urs Geiser;; April 21, 1998