Beaten by the weather in the end.
Today’s guests were Derek and Mary who I collected from the edge of the Albazin area of Granada. We headed back to an agricultural area near to Moraleda to start the day, we did this first as the weather was looking a bit dodgy and this site soon becomes very muddy when it rains. Along the approach road we picked both Crested (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata) and Thekla Larks (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus) and Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis). We turned on to the track and headed straight for the ruin where we parked and started to scan the fields, we got flight views of a Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua) and found lots of adult Crimson Speckled (Utetheisa pulchella) moths and also the caterpillar. We then drove a little further out on to the fields picking up several Calandra Larks (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), Northern Wheatear (Collalba Gris / Oenanthe oenanthe) and masses of migrating Yellow Wagtails (Lavandera Boyera / Motacilla flava). We returned to the ruin and immediately picked up a small group of a dozen or so Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa) and what I was sure were at least 2 Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Ganga Ortega / Pterocles orientalis). Sure enough when we got the scope on the birds there were 2 Sandgrouse, a few moments later the grouse were in flight calling and 2 turned into 7. They flew around for a couple of minutes giving us some great views before settling just out of sight just over a ridge, as they usually do. Other birds seen here were Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica) and Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus).
We next visited the fields just north of Huetor Tajar, Derek and Mary were very pleased when we found the flock of 180 Little Bustards (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax) which were feeding and leaping around in one of the Lucerne fields. Several Stone-curlews (Alcaraván Común / Burhinus oedicnemus) were our next good find on a field which by mid winter will hold several hundred of these curious looking birds. Other species seen included Whinchat (Tarabilla Nortena / Saxicola rubetra), White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba), Tree Sparrow (Gorrión Molinero / Passer Montanus), Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Cattle Egret (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis) and 5 Northern Lapwings (Avefria Europea / Vanellus vanellus) which were the first for the winter.
As we started to make our way up Sierra de Loja the weather started to take a turn for the worst, we were talking to the warden from Loja about some of the local birds when the heavens opened and this was how it stayed for the rest of the afternoon. On the hill we did see Red-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula), Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura), Crag (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris) and House Martins (Avión Común / Delichon urbica), plus we heard Long-tailed Tit (Mito / Aegithalos caudatus) and Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs).
To try and drive out of the rain we headed back to the Cacín Valley and to the Embalse de Cacín, it was still raining but English birders are used to it so we plodded on. On the water there were Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), Gadwall (Anade Friso / Anas strepera), Northern Pintail (Ánade Rabudo / Anas acuta), Northern Shoveler (Cuchara Común / Anas clypeata), Eurasian Teal (Cerceta Común / Anas crecca), Common Pochard (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinula Chloropus), Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra) and Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis). A couple of winter plumaged Black Terns (Fumarel Común / Chlidonias niger) were perched on sticks out in the lake and a single Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea) flushed up from the reeds and moved further down the lake.
Down at Embalse de Bermejales we stopped at the out flow end and added a couple of Grey Wagtails (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea), Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus), Cetti’s Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti) and Jay (Arrendajo / Garrulus glandarius). Unfortunately the afternoon was a bit of a wash out but we still saw some interesting species during the tour.
Photographs from the top: Cattle Egret (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis) and Crimson Speckled (Utetheisa pulchella) adult and caterpillar.