Puerto de la Duquesa August 2nd – August 9th 2011

We decided to join our parents and family friends for a bit of sun and flew out with girlfriends late on the Tuesday evening of the 2nd of August. We have been on holiday here on 4 other occasions and it’s a bit of family tradition. It had been 5 years since our last visit so it was great to return and see how things had changed over the years.The port we stay around is about 45 minutes from Malaga and just 20 minutes from Gibraltar. Its a great place for a relaxing holiday in the sun. Not built up with high rise blocks but nice apartments really close to the beach and pool.

Tuesday 2nd August

The drive from the airport was smooth but we were less than impressed with our car and I wouldn’t recommend using record go car hire, should have stuck with sixt. Some swifts were buzzing below some lights at the airport but we were keen to get on our way. On arriving at Duquesa we had time for a Pizza and a wander around the port before hitting the sack.

Wednesday 3rd August

I woke up early to sound of screaming Swifts outside the apartment windows and through blurry eyes revealed that the birds coming closest were Pallid Swifts with a few European Swifts nearby. I had a scan from the balcony spotting a few Spotless Starling and on an aerial there was a Little Owl with two young birds sat below on some broken roofing. A nice start. It was always going to be the mornings when Greg and I could head out for some birding, whilst everyone else was still sleeping, and I had aquired some information on a few nearby sites with some sought after goodies.

After scanning from the balcony I was wide awake and decided to walk and get some bread for bacon butties while the others slept. Near the shop two Monk Parakeets were feeding in a palm tree giving close views and I had a good look at a few Yellow legged Gulls around the port and a couple of Collared Dove flew over. After breakfast we decided to go and get some provisions for the week from the supersol just up the road and on leaving went on a little drive spotting Woodchat Shrike, Stonechat, Griffon Vulture, and a few Goldfinch.

We returned to the apartment and before we had chance to head to the beach we were invited for a spin on our friends boat. It’s a luxury 30ft sport boat with a rubber ring on the back. A very smart bit of kit indeed! Armed with the bins, camera and a nice bag of lagers we were off.  After each being towed around on the ring at break neck speed we relaxed with a few beers and some music a bit further out to sea. This gave us an opportunity to scan the seas and we soon had a cracking Cory’s Shearwater drifting by, close to the boat. We then noticed 3 birds sat on the sea and when we drove the boat closer they were Cory’s and we had stunning views before they took to the air.

After this we chilled by the pool and sea and that evening Greg and I sneaked away and drove out just up the road to Messas Chullera. This area is warbler heaven and driving along the dirt track we soon pulled over and noted many Sardinian Warblers and a few Dartford Warblers. There could well have been other species but it was just too hot to be out to long so we carried on. The wires were covered in House Martins and in trees further along the track were many Bee – eaters. Easily 40-50 birds were seen leaving the tall trees and the sound of their bubbling call was always in the air. They really are stunning birds. Amazing to see in such numbers!

We then arrived at a paddock with a bull where we saw two Woodchat Shrike a Spotted Flycatcher and a Hoopoe. In the trees was a probable Melodious Warbler though only seen very briefly and we heard an Iberian Chiffchaff. All in all a great first day.


Thursday 4th August

This morning we got up early and drove down to Sotogrande for a look around. On scanning the first lagoon which is lined by reed beds it was not long until we picked up a male Little Bittern.  This was the first time we had ever had close up cracking views of this bird, a real stunner. 2 Purple Swamphen were also showing well nearby. Little Egret, Cattle Egret and 2 Kingfishers were also seen on the lagoon.

We continued around the boardwalk hearing a Nightingale and seeing a Sardinian Warbler. On the beach were 4 Crested Lark and a Spotted Flycatcher sat on the sand was unexpected. We had further excellent views of the Little Bittern balancing on the reeds before it flew joining 2 others at the end of the lagoon and 2 Red Rumped Swallow flew over.

We continued on to the natural park and saw 3 immature/female Night Heron in flight on getting out of the car. A Reed Warbler and a few Parakeets over was all we saw on this walk with a Common Sandpiper on the river. It was warming up now and time to head back. We had just enough time to stop and look at a Lesser kestrel on a pylon.

After a day in the sun we went on a short drive towards Casares in the evening and saw a cracking Short-toed Eagle, a first for us but it drifted away a little quicker than we hoped. A Booted Eagle and a few Griffon Vultures were seen with a Crag Martin an adult Woodchat Shrike with around 15 Bee-eater also noted.


Friday 5th August

Today we went back on the boat and this time went down the coast to Sotogrande port. En route we saw a few Cory’s Shearwater and on going into the port noticed hundreds of Yellow Legged Gulls on the rocks.

We slowly went through the harbour around the many lovely boats having a few beers in the sun. On the way out we went a fair bit closer to the gulls and managed to pick out 2 Audouin's Gull. They stood out clearly and were a little detached from the main flock. Another new bird for us both.

In the evening we took some food up to a river bed, driving through Manilva and past the turning for Casares. We have visited this spot on each holiday here and this time there was plenty of water left in the river. We went for a short walk and instantly noticed a huge flock of Swifts and Martins above. We picked out a cracking Alpine Swift in amongst the many Pallid and fewer Common Swifs and with them was a few Red rumped Swallow. A Common Sandpiper and a Kingfisher were on the river and a Snake was in the water. Walking along a line of tall trees we noticed two Golden Oriole fly in to them and then away again all too quickly. A lovely flock of Bee-eater flew over head and we had flight views of another male Golden Oriole but couldn’t pick it up the trees.  There seemed to be plenty in the area but we just couldn’t get one perched up.


Saturday 6th August

We got up for first light this morning to go and explore the rest of the area down at Sotogrande before the others got up and the temperatures! We had a quick look at the first lagoon and noticed a flock of Cattle Egret all leaving their reed bed roost. We this time continued to view another lagoon which was far shallower with exposed mud and it was instantly apparent how full of birds it was! Unfortunatley the hide was locked but good views could still be had and a few Black Winged Stilt were close in. A cracking adult male Night Heron was stood out in the middle of the lagoon and a Purple Swamphen were showing very well indeed. The long pink legs were clearly visible with the purply-blue tones shining in the sun, great birds. A Little Egret and a few waders consisting of Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover and Dunlin were spotted along with 2 Yellow wagtail with one clearly a of the Blue-headed race. Just as we were going to carry on a Heron was drifting in and it landed right out in the open to reveal itself as a juvenile Purple Heron. We had cracking views of the bird, as showy as our Greys! We also picked up a juvenile Night Heron a bit further away along with a single Grey Heron to add to the heron list.

Carrying on along the beach we found 3 Kentish Plover and watched them at close range running around on the sand. 

We then noticed a group of birders who were looking at us with a sense of surprise. It became apparent that they were ringing and we waited around to see what birds they had. They had 9 bags and were more than happy for us to stay and watch them process the birds.  The fist bird was a Reed Warbler closely followed by its larger cousin a Great Reed Warbler. It was a great opportunity to compare the size of the two and the first time we had seen one. They really are large birds!  A further 2 Reed Warblers were processed along with 3 Cetti’s Warbler, a Common Whitethroat and a Nightingale. This was a real bonus and we headed for home.

We headed off to Gibraltar after we got back for a trip up the rock and whilst up the rock spotted a distant Harrier species and then when we were leaving noticed a large movement of Black Kites. Easily 100-150 birds were moving towards the rock and gaining height over it. It was very impressive to witness as many of them were coming towards the rock quite low.

Sunday 7th August

After a lazy day on the beach recovering from a late night we went for a quick look up at Mesas de Chullera again and on the dusty road leading towards the trees we wanted to explore, a Short-toed Eagle was sat on a pylon. We scoped it before it gave us a brilliant fly by. What a bird!

Easily 75 Bee-eaters were again in the trees all lifting up as we drove past.

On reaching the paddock with a few large leafy trees we stood in the shade to scan the area for a short while. A Melodious Warbler was seen well but briefly and a Western Bonelli’s Warbler was also seen well and allowed a few photos. A Hoopoe a Woodchat Shrike and two Spotted Flycatchers were also in the area.

In the evening we went with everyone to Casares and saw a few Griffon Vultures, a Booted Eagle and a Peregrine Falcon high overhead. There was a fiesta in the town and we had a beer before heading for home. A look from the viewpoint produced a female Blue Rock Thrush and on the drive home we stopped to get brilliant views of a Short-toed Eagle on a plylon and managed a few photos.

Monday 8th August

We got up early again this morning for a drive to Estepona Golf course.  On driving towards the golf course we passed through some farmland and two Turtle Doves were sat in the middle of the road! We continued on and came to an area of rough ground which held many birds. 40-50 Corn Bunting, singing Thekla Larks, Stonechats, Linnets and 2 Woodchat Shrike were seen with another Turtle Dove flying over. We scanned the area seeing two more Short-toed Eagle and carried on to a an unused apartment complex.  Here we glimpsed a Wheatear on the road along with 3 Woodchat shrike with a juvenile bird sat in a tree. We spent some time by the apartment picking up our first Black- eared Wheatears. There were 2 female birds and 2 Juvenile birds but I only glimpsed a male before it flew off. This was one of the birds high on my list and we were intent on re-finding the male. Walking around the rocky area we saw a Little Owl and a Spotted Flycathcer before both being stung by the same angry wasp! We watched the Wheatears hoping the male would appear but had no choice to move on. Just as were leaving the area however I noticed a bird in a tree seemingly getting out of the sun and to our delight it was the cracking male Black-eared Wheatear. We watched it feeding on the grass and took a few photos before moving on very happy indeed. This was one of those birds that they say you can expect to see at many sites but we just struggled with! We headed back and stopped off to see 3 Common Buzzards on wires along with a few Bee-eaters. Passing through the farmland we got out to watch a juvenile Turtle Dove on wires which was great to see.  It’s such a shame they are so hard to see in the UK, great birds.

We spent the rest of the day out on the boat and drinking in the beach bar.

Tuesday 9th August

It was our last day and in the morning we took mum and dad down to Sotogrande for one more look around. We watched a lovely flock of Black Winged Stilt whirling around our heads and again Purple Swamphen showed well. We didn’t have long but a nice selection of waders were on show and included Kentish Plover and Ringed Plover, a smart Curlew Sandpiper a few Dunlin and a Little Stint.

We headed back for the beach as temperatures soared and on the way back scanned a field with a Turtle Dove seen in flight.

The rest of the day was spent in the sea relaxing and having a few last beers before heading for the airport.

It was a holiday that was not all about birding but we managed to fit in a good few short sessions and got on some great birds. The sheer heat meant birding was only possible early morning or evening and luckily having researched a few local spots meant we didn't spend much time travelling. A really cracking holiday.