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Brazo del Este & Guadalquivir Marshes Outing

02 May 2019

On Sat 13th April, we arrived at the Brazo del Este at around 7am, having left Gibraltar at 4:30.  It was still dark, but the growing sound of birds told us that the sun would rise soon. 

Silhouetted flocks of Eurasian Spoonbills, Little Egrets and Purple Herons dispersed from their roosts before it was light and the first rays of the sun revealed good water levels supporting many Glossy Ibises, Purple Swamphens, Greater Flamingos, Grey Herons, Black-winged Stilts, Pied Avocets and a range of waders that included Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Common Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Common Greenshank, Curlew Sandpiper and Ruff.  A Squacco Heron flew over our heads and a large flock of Whiskered Terns flitted over the water.  Gull-billed Terns flew past, as did a Caspian Tern.  The pleasure of tracking down calling and singing, nondescript little brown jobs in the form of Zitting Cisticola, Cetti’s, Savi’s, Sedge, Eurasian Reed and Great Reed Warblers was puctuated by great views of some very smart Eurasian Penduline Tits and the introduced Black-headed Weaver.


Penduline Tit. Photo: Tommy Finlayson


Another section of the site held many breeding Purple Herons, Black-headed Gulls, Whiskered Terns and other species.  The cacophony of bird sound was as impressive as the diversity of birds enjoying the warm morning sun.  Ducks here included Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, Red-crested Pochard and a pair of Garganey, stopping on their way north.  Western Marsh Harriers floated over the reed beds, searching for prey.  Some drier ground further ahead held breeding Kentish Plovers, Collared Pratincoles, Crested Larks and Greater Short-toed Larks, whilst a Tamarisk thicket was full of Black-crowned Night Herons and two or three Common Nightingales that sang away loudly.  A stop at a bridge over a canal provided excellent views of European Bee-eaters and Red-rumped Swallows and a male Ruff in breeding plumage waded along the fringes of more marshland.


 Whiskered Terns. Photo: Tommy Finlayson


With the sun rising high in the sky, it was time to continue south along the Guadalquivir river.  Exiting the Brazo del Este, we spotted a Stone Curlew that hid cryptically in a dry field.  Nearby, male Spanish Sparrows displayed to females and a few Red Avadavats called from a reedy channel.  The Eucalyptus lining the river supported nesting White Storks, with more Spanish Sparrows nesting within the storks’ nests.  Further down we increased to our lark list, with Calandra Lark and then good views of one of our key targets, the localised Lesser Short-toed Lark.  A Spectacled Warbler sang from the bushes nearby and groups of Lesser Kestrels hovered over the fields.


The marshes at Trebujena and the Bonzanza salt pans were teeming with birds.  There were hundreds of Greater Flamingos and Pied Avocets, many handsome Slender-billed Gulls and other waders, gulls and terns.  A very large flock of waders in one section was comprised mainly of Curlew Sandpipers, Grey Plovers and Dunlin, with many Ringed Plovers and a flock of Bar-tailed Godwits.  Two Ospreys entertained us at the salt pans and a large flock of Common Shelduck was flying in the distance.  Smaller waders near the town of Bonanza included Sanderlings and Little Stints.


Greater Flamingos. Photo Tommy Finlayson


We enjoyed a late lunch in Bonanza and continued our birding.  The Laguna del Tarelo produced our targets at the site, with many White-headed Duck and two Marbled Duck present, among other wildfowl.  The heronry in the middle of the lagoon was full of nesting birds as usual.  Best of all, a male Ring-necked Duck was among a flock of Common Pochard.  Good views of Black-necked Grebe in breeding plumage delighted all observers.  A practically perfect day’s birding ended in the adjacent pinewood of La Algaida, with Black Kites and Booted Eagles wheeling overhead as we watched nesting Eurasian Spoonbills and Grey Herons from a safe (for the birds) distance and added some common woodland species to our still growing list.  We finally returned to Gibraltar in the evening, after what is definitely the most birdy event on GONHS’ annual calendar.


Eurasian Spoonbills, La Algaida pinewood. Photo: Trevor Hammond



Total Bird Species 119
Common Shelduck Black-winged Stilt Greater Short-toed Lark
Mallard Stone Curlew Lesser Short-toed Lark
Gadwall Collareed Pratincole Calandra Lark
Northern Shoveler Common Ringed Plover Common Sand Martin
Marbled Duck Kentish Plover Red-rumped Swallow
Garganey Grey Plover Barn Swallow
Common Pochard Ruff Common House Martin
Ring-necked Duck Sanderling Yellow Wagtail
Red-crested Pochard Curlew Sandpiper Common Nightingale
White-headed Duck Dunlin Common Stonechat
Red-legged Partridge Little Stint Common Blackbird
Little Grebe Common Sandpiper Zitting Cisticola
Great Crested Grebe Wood Sandpiper Garden Warbler
Black-necked Grebe Green Sandpiper Sardinian Warbler
Great Cormorant Common Redshank Spectacled Warbler
Black-crowned Night Heron Spotted Redshank Cetti’s Warbler
Squacco Heron Common Greenshank Savi’s Warbler
Cattle Egret Black-tailed Godwit Sedge Warbler
Little Egret Bar-tailed Godwit European Reed Warbler
Great Egret Whimbrel Great Reed Warbler
Grey Heron Black-headed Gull Willow Warbler
Purple Heron Slender-billed Gull Blue Tit
White Stork Mediterranean Gull Great Tit
Glossy Ibis Yellow-legged Gull Eurasian Penduline Tit
Eurasian Spoonbill Lesser Black-backed Gull Short-toed Treecreeper
Greater Flamingo Gull-billed Tern Woodchat Shrike
Osprey Caspian Tern Western Jackdaw
Eurasian Griffon Vulture Little Tern Northern Raven
Short-toed Eagle Black Tern Spotless Starling
Booted Eagle Whiskered Tern House Sparrow
Black Kite Feral Pigeon Spanish Sparrow
Western Marsh Harrier Common Wood Pigeon Black-headed Weaver
Common Buzzard Eurasian Collared Dove Red Avadavat
Common Kestrel Common Cuckoo Common Waxbill
Lesser Kestrel Common Swift Common Linnet
Peregrine Falcon Pallid Swift European Goldfinch
Common Moorhen European Bee-eater European Greenfinch
Purple Swamphen Eurasian Hoopoe European Serin
Eurasian Coot Thekla's Lark Corn Bunting
Pied Avocet Crested Lark