Chris Courtaux's Birding Report

We are indebted to Chris Courtaux, a keen birdwatcher and one of our guests, for this account, complete with many superb photographs, of his birding activites during his stay at Finca Limoneros from 28 April - 2 May 2003.

Day 1 - Alora, El Chorro and the lakes at Ardales
The fourth and last part of our Andalucian Tour proved to be relaxing and productive at the Finca Limoneros in Alora and a range of sites along the Guadalahorce River – barbecue, time to swim and see 85 species and 6 firsts in just over 3 days.

After the cross country drive from scenic Grazelema we arrived to a warm welcome from Keith and Sherill.

An initial foray into Alora, a classic white village between two hills, for tapas also produced Lesser Kestrel nesting in the castle tower (pictured) feeding the young.
The following morning a juvenile Night Heron (pictured) was the first bird seen on a sunrise walk along the river near the weir.
Common Sandpiper (pictured), Little Ringed Plover, Bee Eater, Pied Flycatcher (unusual in these parts) and Red-rumped Swallow were all added to the list.

We then travelled to the dam and gorge at El Chorro seeing Hoopoe, 2 Blue Rock Thrush, Black Redstart and my first Rock Bunting under the viaduct, its black and grey striped head standing out amongst the scrub.

Near the gorge entrance the Red-billed Chough, Rock Doves and Alpine Swift all intermingled with 3 Griffon Vultures circling overhead.

We then continued to follow John Butler’s directions through to the Ruinas de Bobastro with great views but few birds apart from a pair of Cirl Bunting on the hillside across the road from the reservoir and the ubiquitous Sardinian Warbler.

We continued to the Sendero De Gaitaines entrance to a track leading down to the Northern of the Chorro Gorge. Having persevered down the 2.5km to the gorge and then the long walk back we saw nothing new until we reached the barrier at the entrance where my first Crested Tit appeared and showed amongst the shrubs and in the firs. A real perky bird – the walk was worthwhile!
The day ended with stop at the Embalse de Guadelteba seeing a Great Crested Grebe. Then a very lucky stop for photos on road to Ardales over looking the Embalse del Conde de Guadalahorce. My first Great Grey Shrike (pictured) was sat on the wires, clearly showing the pinkish of meridionalis, the Iberian variant.
Day 2 - Teba Gorge, Fuente de Piedra and Laguna Dulce
Day 2 started with the walk up the Teba Gorge – a must for anyone in this area. Although overcast Black Wheatear and Blue Rock Thrush were visible near the bridge. Through the gorge Alpine Swift, Black Redstart and Chough were always overhead with two Wren and several Rock Sparrows on the valley floor.

The walk was highlighed by a male Bonelli Eagle, another first, the white flash clearly showing behind the head, then a pair of black and white Egyptian Vultures, flying so low as to see the yellow head without the aid of binoculars.
We continued on to Fuenta de Piedra, a vast salt lagoon covered with Greater Flamingo (and Black Winged Stilt). On the South side in the ruins a Little Owl was roosting (pictured) with a Melodious Warbler nearby in the tamarisk. Near the visitors centre waders were dominant including Little Stint, Redshank, Kentish Plover and Curlew Sandpiper in full plumage and Whiskered Tern feeding and nesting.

The surprise of the day was the Black-winged Kite, a really elegant and neat bird, not seen since our trip on the Nile last year.
On our return to Alora we paused at Laguna Dulce, a small area of water with a good hide, close access to the water and a similar selection of birds to Fuente de Piedra.

However, we also saw Ruff, Avocet, Red-crested Pochard, two Lapwing, Black Tern and the pair of Egyptian Vultures.
Day 3 - Rio Guadalhorce and Rio Velez Estuaries, Malaga
Day 3 was a visit to the estuaries of the Guadalhorce and Rio Velez. I was rewarded by three Audouin's Gull, on the beach beside the entrance to the Paraje. Very dark eye against a clear slender white head and red beak is exceptionally attractive, although I missed the picture.

Moving through the park offered Common Sandpiper, Yellow Wagtail (pictured), Kentish Plover and Sanderling near the entrance and a family of Gadwall, Little Grebe and the first Teal of the trip in the lagoons.
Amongst the reeds across the North of the park were several pairs of Spotted Flycatcher, with Tree Sparrows, Corn Bunting and Woodchat Shrike (pictured) amongst the shrubs.
Along the Eastern edge Hoopoe (pictured) and Sardinian Warbler featured.

The biggest surprise was at sea a lone Razorbill (very late) very close in, complemented by a lone Sandwich Tern and several Little Terns.
I continued on to Rio Velez, although the river was in flood a short walk along the Western edge by the reeds was justified with Reed Warblers, a large flock of Mediterranean Gull and Nightingale (pictured).

The final day we repeated two of our favourite sites before travelling on to Seville and the flight home.

Although the walk along the River Guadalahorce produced a similar set of birds, the Laguna Dulce added a Marsh Harrier low over the marsh, 20 Collared Pratincole and over 30 Ruff.

To sum up, Alora is good area for birding with a varied set of locations along the Guadalahorce. Thanks to Keith and Sherill for their help, and their Finca is in a good central location for the many other very productive birding sites in the area.