Sharon and John came out from the Midlands in the UK to stay in our accommodation for a few days birding. During their stay we had four good days and one which was probably the best day I have had since getting to Spain. Today we were staying localish and headed off down the Cacín Valley looking for Raptors and Steppe species. We first stopped in an agricultural area just above the valley, the tracks were very wet so we parked the car and before we left it 20+ Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Ganga Ortega / Pterocles orientalis) flushed from a field nearby and dropped a couple of hundred yards away just out of sight over a ridge. A couple of birds stayed, which allowed use to get some good views, before they went and joined the rest of the flock. We got out of the car and made our way to a nearby ruin from where we had good views of a single Sandgrouse as it fed amongst some weeds in the crop fields. A mixed flock of Calandra (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra) and Skylarks (Alondra Común / Alauda arvensis) then flew passed and a Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua) was seen flying from the rear of the old Cortijo. Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), Crested (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata) and Thekla Larks (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Meadow Pipit (Bistita Común / Anthus pratensis), Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis), White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata) and Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros) were all seen at this site.
We then moved down into the valley and as the weather had worsened we decided to drive down to the furthest point at Embalse de Bermejales, We stopped on the west side of the main dam and had a look amongst the pine trees and around the shoreline. On a stream that was flowing into the lake we picked up a cracking Dipper (Mirlo Acuático / Cinclus cinclus), a good find as they are not a common species in the area and as we watch it John glanced up a identified our first of 17 raptor species to be seen in the next five days an immature Golden Eagle (Águila Real / Aquila chrysaetos). Several Barn Swallows (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica) and a single Sand Martin (Avión Zapador / Riparia riparia) were hawking low over the water and an adult winter Yellow-legged Gull (Gaviota Patiamarilla / Larus Michahellis) flew by. The only other species seen out on the lake were Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos) and Great Crested Grebe (Somormujo Lavanco / Podiceps cristatus), on the shoreline large numbers of Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita), Meadow Pipit (Bistita Común / Anthus pratensis) and White Wagtails (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba) picked around in the tamarisk vegetation. As we returned to the car several spikes of Dull Bee Orchid (Ophrys fusca) were seen and Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros) and Grey Wagtail (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea) flew from the wall of the out flow channel.
The next spot was a group of low crags where we were hoping for a roosting Eagle Owl (Buho Real / Bubo bubo) which we picked up in a hole in the cliff, not great views but the bird was seen moving around just back from the entrance hole. Also seen here were Great Tit (Carbonero Común / Parus major), Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus), Robin (Petirrrojo / Erithacus rubecula), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus) and Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala).
The next stop was at a place where we watch a female Bonelli's Eagle (Aguila-azor Perdicera / Hieraaetus faciatus) but the wind was biting so we soon moved on to a bar in Cacín for a coffee and a sandwich.
Later we moved back north to the Embalse de Cacín and scanned the lake and the reedbeds picking up Black-necked (Zampullín Cuellinegro / Podiceps nigricollis) and Little Grebes (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis), Cetti’s Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica), Common Pochard (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina), Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris), Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinula Chloropus), Great Cormorant (Cormorán Grande / Phalacrocorax carbo), Green Woodpecker (Pito Real / Picus viridis), Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea) and Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus). We moved to the other end of the lake and looked for a male Red-knobbed Coot (Focha Moruna / Fulca cristata) which had been seen some weeks before, checking all the Coots John eventually found the bird which appeared to be collecting nest material and showed very well.
Just a few hundred meters further on we parked and had a look at the swollen river, several Redwing (Zorzal Alirrojo / Turdus iliacus) and Blackcaps (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricapilla) were seen along with calling Cetti’s Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti) and a single Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla). A dead Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) was seen lying on the verge but a short while later a very active alive one was seen scampering around on the ground before bolting up a pine tree out of sight.
Another stop was made further along the road to El Turro to look at some better Dull Bee Orchid plants, here we also saw a female Sparrowhawk (Gavilán Común / Accipiter nisus) and several calling Common Crossbills (Piquituerto Común / Loxia curvirostra).
On the way home we stopped at the crags below Moraleda adding Blue Rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius) and Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura) and just before arriving back at the house several Stone-curlew (Alcaraván Común / Burhinus oedicnemus) and a flock of noisy Azure-winged Magpies (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus) finished the day off nicely.
Photographs from the top: Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), Red-knobbed Coot (Focha Moruna / Fulca cristata), Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis), Dull Bee Orchid (Ophrys fusca) site and Dull Bee Orchid (Ophrys fusca).