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Green Hooktail Paragomphus genei, Zeller's Skipper Borbo borbonica & Rüppell's Vultures Gyps ruepellii in Cádiz

John Muddeman
23/09/2013 11:17:52

A few notes regarding two rare insects seen on my September tour to the Strait of Gibraltar, plus the overall results including a few Rüppell's Vultures, at last!

Posted in: Butterflies and Moths, Dragonflies and Damselflies, Birds, Endangered Wildlife and Habitats | Andalusia | Mainland Spain, Southern Spain


14-20 September 2013 saw me guiding John and Green Hooktail female - Paragomphus genei © John MuddemanGreen Hooktail female
Paragomphus genei
© John Muddeman
Audrey on a private trip week-long to the Strait of Gibraltar. While focussed on the bird migration as thousands of raptors, storks and other smaller birds funnel across to Africa over the shortest stretch of water between W Europe and Africa, given the wonderful wildlife opportunities present, we also looked at everything we could!

And two choice snippets of information allowed to see not only the colourful and very scarce Green Hooktail Paragomphus genei, but also the extremely localised and under-recorded Zeller's Skipper Borbo borbonica for the first time... My sincere thanks to Teresa for suggesting that I concentrate on looking for the skipper in flowery patches, especially in the lower areas (this might sound daft, but in late summer most areas are bone dry and flowers very thin on the ground!) and also Green Hooktail male - Paragomphus genei © John MuddemanGreen Hooktail male
Paragomphus genei
© John Muddeman
to Fernando, a local guide in the Straits, who very generously gave me an exact site for the hooktail.

Walking into a quite heavily grazed pasture occupied by a couple of horses, and adjacent to a small river fringed by dense tree cover on a windy afternoon was not really what I'd expected to produce results. But within just 10-15 minutes we'd found a superb male Green Hooktail, and then shortly afterwards a rather more obliging female sitting about mid-height on the stems of scruffy umbellifers and other plant stalks. The photos of the male were against the light, hence the poor colour rendition, but the female allowed approach at different angles and gave me very pleasing results.
Mediterranean Skipper - Gegenes nostradamus © John MuddemanMediterranean Skipper
Gegenes nostrodamus
© John Muddeman

The Zeller's Skipper was an altogether entirely different experience. Working a classic birding area visited by numerous people daily, everyone was concentrating on the birds and a few on a few dragonflies as well, including a flighty male Long Skimmer Orthetrum trinacria and a couple of Northern Banded Groundlings Brachythemis impartita. But I also noticed some patches of flowers in a couple of wet spots and we decided to take a look. A Mediterranean Skipper Gegenes nostrodamus flicked up from the path just in front and dropped down onto its sunning stone again. This was followed by at least two more, allowing us to 'get our eye in', while another was feeding on the nearby flowers. Working round to get a better look, another darker and very flighty skipper came in, and then promptly disappeared. It had some spots on the wings, but there was no time for a picture or to even see it properly... A short wait and again, it nipped in, this time perching long enough to see spots on the Zeller's Skipper - Borbo borbonica © John MuddemanZeller's Skipper
Borbo borbonica
© John Muddeman
under hindwing and get a couple of confirmation snaps - a Zeller's Skipper! But again it disappeared off, this time for good.

The following day we repeated a visit to the site and during a quieter moment I again went down to some flowers, this time several hundred metres away. Two Zeller's Skippers were feeding, occasionally skipping out onto the adjacent vegetation to sunbathe and rest, and despite being in a very tricky location, allowed a few more pix. I even managed a poor shot of one being stalked by a large mantis, with the skipper fortunately escaping literally by the width of the scales on its wings!

The same area as the skipper also finally yielded my first Rüppell's Vulture in Spain, and the first of three on the trip! OK, so there may have been five different birds in the general area at the time, but seeing them is often a neck-breaking task...

But the main bird highlight was being in the right place at the right time for the best southbound migration observed in 2013. Easterly winds the day we arrived had been pushing birds into the Strait area for a couple of days, and with the risk of them being blown out into the Atlantic Ocean, many simply wander around, roosting in the mountains just inland while waiting for the winds to turn to the W. Indeed, thousands of Booted Eagles and a range of other raptors including Egyptian Vultures, European Honey-buzzards and Short-toed Eagles were wheeling around in the Algeciras area as we arrived, giving us a really great start. Indeed, just this in itself would have been superb, but we finally headed to our hotel in the knowledge that the wind was to turn to a light SW the following morning.

Reaching the famous Cazalla viewpoint at a sensible hour (i.e. as soon as possible after our breakfast would allow!), we joined an already significant and growing crowd and were lucky to be able to park! Short-toed Eagles were the order of the day, and a trickle of birds were already heading out from the Cork Oak forests on the mountainsides inland and heading straight past. This increased over time, and gradually became more varied as Egyptian Vultures, Montagu’s Harriers, European Honey-buzzards, Black Kites, flocks of Black Storks, and more, all joined in to exploit the perfect migration conditions. For us, single juvenile Bonelli’s Eagle and a juvenile Lanner were the rarest species, but the final official counts (J. Elorriaga pers com) were some 1481 Short-toed Eagles, 781 Booted Eagles, 482 Black Kites, 326 European Honey-buzzards, 217 Black Storks, 102 Eurasian Sparrowhawks, 92 Western Marsh Harriers, 71 White Storks, 62 Montagu’s Harriers, 61 Egyptian Vultures, 17 Lesser Kestrels, 2 Common Buzzards, 2 Lanner Falcons, 1 Bonelli’s Eagle and 1 Osprey. Amazingly, it came to an abrupt end before lunch time, and we were left looking, astonished, at largely empty skies! Just how many birds migrated out that day remains a mystery, but the sky at times was filled to way beyond where we could see, and the probably thousands of Booted Eagles present in the E of the Strait the day before must have gone out elsewhere. I suspect that without radar coverage over the entire width of the Strait it will remain impossible to know just how many birds really cross in total!

But as will be clear in the list below, given 161 bird species for the week, plus Common Dolphin, Long-finned Pilot Whale, European Chamaeleon, Two-tailed Pasha and orange-winged Dropwing, just to name a few non-birds, meant it was an exciting tour!

BIRDS - AVES

Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa
Common Pheasant Phasianus colchicus
Greylag Goose Anser anser
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata
Red-crested Pochard Netta rufina
Common Pochard Aythya ferina
White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala
Cory's Shearwater Calonectris diomedea
Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus
Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis
Black-necked/Eared Grebe Podiceps nigricollis
Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus
Black Stork Ciconia nigra
White Stork Ciconia ciconia
Northern Bald Ibis Geronticus eremita
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus
Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia
Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus
Black-crowned Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides
Western Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
Purple Heron Ardea purpurea
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Northern Gannet Morus bassanus
Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
Western Osprey Pandion haliaetus
European Honey-buzzard Pernis apivorus
Black-winged/-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus
Red Kite Milvus milvus
Black Kite Milvus migrans
Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus
Rüppell's Vulture Gyps rueppellii
Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus
Cinereous/Monk/Black Vulture Aegypius monachus
Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus
[Western] Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus
Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus
Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus
Common Buzzard Buteo buteo
Spanish Imperial Eagle Aquila adalberti
Bonelli's Eagle Aquila fasciata
Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni
Common/Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Lanner Falcon Falco biarmicus
Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus
Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
Eurasian/Common Coot Fulica atra
Eurasian Stone-curlew Burhinus oedicnemus
Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta
Northern Lapwing Vanellus vanellus
Grey/Black-bellied Plover Pluvialis squatarola
Common Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula
Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus
Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago
Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa
Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica
[Eurasian] Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus
Common Redshank Tringa totanus
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia
Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
Red Knot Calidris canutus
Sanderling Calidris alba
Little Stint Calidris minuta
Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea
Dunlin Calidris alpina
Ruff Philomachus pugnax
Collared Pratincole Glareola pratincola
Slender-billed Gull Chroicocephalus genei
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus
Audouin's Gull Ichthyaetus audouinii
Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus
Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus
Caspian Tern Hydroprogne caspia
Sandwich Tern Thalasseus sandvicensis
Little Tern Sternula albifrons
Common Tern Sterna hirundo
Black Tern Chlidonias niger
Arctic Skua / Parasitic Jaeger Stercorarius parasiticus
Rock Dove / Feral Pigeon Columba livia
[Common] Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus
European Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur
Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto
Monk Parakeet Myiopsitta monachus
Tawny Owl Strix aluco
Little Owl Athene noctua
Alpine Swift Tachymarptis melba
Common Swift Apus apus
Pallid Swift Apus pallidus
Little Swift Apus affinis
White-rumped Swift Apus caffer
Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis
European Bee-eater Merops apiaster
Eurasian Hoopoe Upupa epops
Iberian Green Woodpecker Picus (viridis) sharpei
Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator
Western Jackdaw Corvus monedula
Northern/Common Raven Corvus corax
[European] Crested Tit Lophophanes cristatus
Great Tit Parus major
Blue Tit Cyanistes caeruleus
Sand Martin / Bank Swallow Riparia riparia
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Eurasian Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris
[Common] House Martin Delichon urbicum
Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica
Calandra Lark Melanocorypha calandra
Greater Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla
Lesser Short-toed Lark Calandrella rufescens
Crested Lark Galerida cristata
Thekla Lark Galerida theklae
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis
Cetti's Warbler Cettia cetti
Grasshopper Warbler Locustella naevia
Great Reed Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus
[Eurasian] Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus
Melodious Warbler Hippolais polyglotta
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus
Iberian Chiffchaff Phylloscopus ibericus
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
Common Whitethroat Sylvia communis
Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala
Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla
[Winter] Wren Troglodytes troglodytes
Short-toed Treecreeper Certhia brachydactyla
Spotless Starling Sturnus unicolor
Common Blackbird Turdus merula
European Robin Erithacus rubecula
Common Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus
Whinchat Saxicola rubetra
European/Common Stonechat Saxicola rubicola
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe
Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata
[European] Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca
House Sparrow Passer domesticus
Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis
Common Waxbill Estrilda astrild
Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava
Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
White Wagtail Motacilla alba
Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris
Tree Pipit Anthus trivialis
Common Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
European Serin Serinus serinus
European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris
European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
Common Linnet Carduelis cannabina
Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra
Rock Bunting Emberiza cia
Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus

MAMMALS - MAMMALIA

European Rabbit Oryctolagus cuniculus
Common Dolphin Delphinus delphis
Long-finned Pilot Whale Globicephala melas


REPTILES - REPTILIA

Spanish Terrapin Mauremys [caspica] leprosa
Mediterranean Chameleon Chamaeleo chamaeleon
Moorish Gecko Tarentola mauritanica
Common Wall Lizard Podarcis muralis

BUTTERFLIES - LEPIDOPTERA

Zeller's Skipper Borbo borbonica
Mediterranean Skipper Gegenes nostradamus
[Common] Swallowtail Papilio machaon
Large White Pieris brassicae
Small White Pieris rapae
Clouded Yellow Colias crocea
Lang's Short-tailed Blue Leptotes pirithous
Two-tailed Pasha Charaxes jasius
Painted Lady Vanessa cardui

MOTHS - LEPIDOPTERA

Spurge Hawkmoth Hyles euphorbiae
Crimson Speckled Utetheisa pulchella

DAMSELFLIES & DRAGONFLIES - ODONATA

Iberian Bluetail Ischnura graellsii
Blue Emperor [Dragonfly] Anax imperator
Lesser Emperor Anax parthenope
Green Hooktail Paragomphus genei
Northern Banded Groundling Brachythemis impartita
Broad Scarlet [Darter] Crocothemis erythraea
Black-tailed Skimmer Orthetrum cancellatum
Epaulet Skimmer Orthetrum chrysostigma
Long Skimmer Orthetrum trinacria
Red-veined Darter Sympetrum fonscolombii
Orange-winged Dropwing Trithemis kirbyii

OTHER SELECTED INSECTS - INSECTA
Praying Mantis Mantis religiosa

OTHER SELECTED TAXA
Wasp Spider sp. Argiope sp.
West African Fiddler Crab Uca tangeri


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