Friday 6 August 2010

Sierra de Loja and the Cacin Valley, Granada Province.

The Autumn Migration is under way!

After damaging my ligament in my ankle the day before I almost cancelled to day’s trip out but decided that as it could be done with little or no walking away from the car I went ahead. An early start was required today to get down south of Granada to pick up Ned for a days birding, on the way a Red-necked Nightjar (Chotacabras Cuellirrojo / Caprimulgus ruficollis) flew along the road side and a couple of Little Owls (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua) were seen in the headlights. 
By the time I reached Ned’s accommodation it was light and whilst I was waiting I added House Martin (Avión Común / Delichon urbica), Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica), Pallid Swift (Vencejo Pálido / Apus pallidus) and House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer Domesticus).
At 07:30 promptly we set off back west to the Sierra Loja where we hoped to catch up with Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia), on the way we saw our only Common Magpies (Urraca / Pica pica) of the day.
We entered the Sierra via Loja and soon started to add more species including Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Great (Carbonero Común / Parus major) and Coal Tits (Carbonero Garrapinos / Parus ater), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto), Spotted Flycatcher (Papamoscas Gris / Muscicapa striata), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs) and Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus). 
At the small disused quarry just above the town we had some cracking views of a family party of Black Wheatears (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura), Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa) and just as we were leaving a fine 2nd summer male Montagu's Harrier (Aguilucho Cenizo / Circus pygargus), which flapped over heading East.
On the way up and at the crags we only added Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula), Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops), Common Crossbill (Piquituerto Común / Loxia curvirostra) and Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina).
Once we were up on the tops Thekla Larks (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae) were common and so were Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis) and Black-eared Wheatear (Collalba Rubia / Oenanthe hispanica) in all of its many plumages. Adult and juvenile Woodchat Shrikes (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator) perched on many of the Hawthorn Bushes, but during the day we only managed to see a single Iberian / Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis) a very pale washed out bird. An immature Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua) was seen perched on roadside rocks, a circling flock of 9 migrating Black Kites (Milano Negro / Milvus migrans) was our first sign of the autumn migratin and a single Bonelli’s Warbler (Mosquitero Papialbo / Phylloscopus bonelli) looked out of place in a small Hawthorn right at the top of the hill.
We spent so time near the almost dried out Charca del Negro, a small pool high on the Sierra where we added the first of many Rock Buntings (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia), unlike Rock Sparrows they were every where. I was surprise that we had not seen the Sparrow before this point and to find none at a site I had watched 20 pairs at just a couple of weeks earlier, I was just amazed (and it only got worse). We also added Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), Red-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) several seen coming in to drink and the first Griffon Vulture (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus) of the day. We went a little further on to the goat cave where I saw the only Rock Sparrow of the day but this bird flew out of sight before I was able to get Ned on to it and was it not seen again. We did add several Crag Martins (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris), at least 6 more Griffon Vultures and a nice male Spectacled Warbler (Curruca Tomillera / Sylvia conspicillata). Several Striped Graylings (Pseudotergumia fidia), Spanish Marbled White (Melanargia ines) and Southern Gatekeeper (Pyronia cecilia) were seen at the site as well.
At this point we turned around and started the journey back down to Loja, on the way we saw a flock of at least 22 more Griffon Vultures moving west, a couple of Blue Rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius) flashed by.
Continuing our quest for the Sparrow we headed for Alhama de Granada, on the way adding Crested Lark (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata), Lesser Kestrel (Cernicola Primilla / Falco naumanni) and Turtle Dove (Tórtola Europea / Streptopelia turtur). In the gorge near the hot springs at Los Banos we again missed Rock Sparrow in another very good breeding site.
Our next stop was in the Cacin Valley, at a bridge which crosses the gorge. In the trees below we saw a male Golden Oriole (Oropéndola / Oriolus oriolus), Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes) sang and a fine Red-rumped Swallow (Golondrina Dáurica / Hirundo daurica) did a fly past. On the was to the Embalse de Cacin we picked up a nice Short-toed Eagle (Culebrera Europeo / Circaetus gallicus) perched on a pylon, a Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus) on the one next door and good numbers of European Bee-eaters (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster) were perched on the wires in between. On the lake we soon picked up Common Pochard (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinula Chloropus), a single Great Crested (Somormujo Lavanco / Podiceps cristatus) and several Little Grebes (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis) and in some dead trees along the Rio Cacin a Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea) sat quietly. In the air above the Embalse we also saw a single Sparrowhawk (Gavilán Común / Accipiter nisus) circling in a cloud of Hirundines, several Common Magpies (Urraca / Pica pica), Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Crested Lark (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata) and a single White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba) were also noted around the margins.
Where the road crosses the Rio Cacin a little way along the road towards El Turro we stopped and had a look, here we saw or heard Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Long-tailed Tit (Mito / Aegithalos caudatus), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris) and Cetti’s Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti).
Southern Skimmer (Orthetrum brunneum) and White Featherleg (Platycnemis latipes) flew around in the reeds and Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria), Small White (Artogeia rapae), Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina ssp hispulla), Long-tailed Blue (Lampides boeticus) and Clouded Yellow (Colias crocea) were seen on the plants nearby.
We then moved on the last site of the day, an area of agricultural fields nearby where we quickly found and had good views of 3 Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Ganga Ortega / Pterocles orientalis). Near a ruined Cortijo on a hilltop we noted large numbers of both Swallowtail (Papilio machaon) and Scarce Swallowtail (Iphiclides podalirius feisthameli) along with loads of Bath White (Pontia daplidice). Due to the heat of the day few other birds were noted so we left and headed back to Ned’s accommodation just in time for him to join family and friends on a trip down to the beach. On my drive home I only managed to add a single pale phase Booted Eagle (Aguililla Calzada / Hieraaetus pennatus) to the list.

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