Saturday 20 February 2010

Near Andujar, Jaen Province.

Day Two and they don’t get much better that this.

View of the area.
We set off for the 3 hour drive to a site in Sierra Morena at an unearthly hour of the morning to try and catch up with the extremely rare Iberian Lynx (Lince Ibérico / Lynx pardina). We started to approach the site just as the dawn was breaking and the car lights on the frost indicated that the road was a bit slippery. During the slow drive we picked up several Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) and a few Rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) but little else. Once at the prime site we set up the chairs and waited for the sun to come up over the mountains, almost immediately a 1st winter Spanish Imperial Eagle (Aguila Imperial Ibérica / Aguila adalberti) flew almost over head and landed in a tree on a ridge a few hundred meters away and was mobbed by the local Common Magpies (Urraca / Pica pica) as soon as it touched down. 
Angles Teardrops (Narcissus triandrus ssb pallidulus).
A mini bus then pulled up and out climbed the noisiest group of French so call naturalist I have ever heard in my life. Banging doors, laughing and talking as loud as possible they soon made sure that the chances of seeing anything, let alone the Lynx were doomed. Once they had set up their equipment things did not get any better as they continued to make a racket and when one of them nearly launched John’s scope down the bank, words were exchanged and the error of their ways explained, things fortunately quickly quietened down. Things then started to appear including Dartford Warbler (Curruca Rabilarga / Sylvia undata), Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricapilla), several Iberian Green Woodpecker (Pito Real / Picus sharpei) could be heard calling all day and good numbers of Hawfinch (Picogordo / Coccotraustes coccotraustes) flew over giving the distinctive high pitched note. 
Common Jonquil (Narcissus jonquilla).
A second Spanish Imperial Eagle then flew along the ridge, this time it was a cracking adult with a bulging crop. Sharon stayed by the car and John and myself had a wander along the track, passing a few other observers on the way. Several wildflowers were seen including two species of Narcissus, Common Jonquil (Narcissus jonquilla) and the beautiful Angles Teardrops (Narcissus triandrus ssb pallidulus) and Iberian Milk-vetch (Astragalus lusitanicus ssp lusitanicus). A pair of Dunnocks (Acentor Común / Prunella modularis), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris) and Iberian Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis) were all added to the day’s species. 
Wallcreeper (Treparriscos / Tichodroma muraria).
A large raptor was the picked up and this was soon identified as our second Golden Eagle (Águila Real / Aquila chrysaetos) in two days, it circled in our view for a 15 minute before drifting off to be replaced by another adult Imperial. John set off back to the car and I took a few minutes to get some shots of the Narcissus on the way back, whist doing this I had a chat with a group of the lads at the site and they mentioned that there had been a Wallcreeper (Treparriscos / Tichodroma muraria) at a site nearby. Armed with the direction it seem like too good an opportunity to miss, so I left John and Sharon looking for the Lynx and went to check the site out. I parked the car and within 15 seconds I had picked up the Wallcreeper in flight along the crags and had some great views of this fantastic bird, a new species for my Andalucía list. I went back up to the main site and John and Sharon returned back to the cliffs and we managed to relocate the bird feeding while on a large man made stone wall and watched it for at least half an hour before it flew higher and out of sight. 
Group watching the Lynx.
We then went back to the Lynx watching but stopped a few hundred yards before our usual spot, parked up and started to have a chat with a Spanish chap that was there. He knew an awful lot about the individual Lynx recorded in the area and gave us a great tip of watching the rock crags behind us. Whilst chatting, a pair of Great Spotted Cuckoos (Crialo Europeo / Clamator gladarius) flew around calling nosily and were later joined by at least one more bird. The temperature had risen and the sun enticed good numbers of Vultures into the air, there were dozens of Griffon Vultures (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus) and several Blacks (Buitre Negro / Aegypius monachus) all of which soon drifted off along the distant ridges. John then picked up three male Mouflon (Ovis orientalis) sitting on the tops of some distant rocks, they are introductions at the site for the hunting fraternity. The time was now going on and I was feeling less and less confident of seeing the target species. John then picked up another Spanish Imperial Eagle in front of us but for some reason I looked in totally the other direction and there they were, a pair of Lynx, the female sat out on top of a crag about 100 meters away. The male dropped down the instant we saw it but the female sat there for a full minute giving the most fantastic views through the scopes. 
Two very happy people, John and Sharon.
She then disappeared as the crowds from further along arrived. They all continued further around the corner of the track hoping for views and for the first time all day we were grateful for the big mouths of the French group because we could tell from the noise being made several 100 meter away up the track they had got the Lynx again. John and Sharon went on ahead and I packed up the kit and followed on. Both animals were jumping and walking around in full view on the rear of the crags. What a way to end what had already been a great day. Other species seen during the day included Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia), Long-tailed (Mito / Aegithalos caudatus) and Crested Tit (Herrerillo Capuchino /Parus cristatus), Iberian  Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cooki), Woodlark (Totovia / Lullula arborea), Blue Rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius), Barn (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica) and Red-rumped Swallows (Golondrina Dáurica / Hirundo daurica) and loads more.

Friday 19 February 2010

Cacín Valley, Granada Province.

Day one, A good start.

Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua).
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. 
Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos).
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), Iberian 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.
Red-knobbed Coot (Focha Moruna / Fulca cristata).
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 and White Wagtails 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 and Grey Wagtail (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea) flew from the wall of the out flow channel.
Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis).
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.
Somber Bee Orchid (Ophrys fusca / foresteri) site.
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), Iberian Green Woodpecker (Pito Real / Picus sharpei), 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.
Somber Bee Orchid (Ophrys fusca / foresteri).
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 Somber Bee Orchid (Ophrys fusca / foresteri) 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 Iberian  Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cooki) finished the day off nicely.

Thursday 18 February 2010

Rio Guadalhorce, Malaga Province.

Collecting some good friends from Malaga Airport.

Guadalhorce beach with debris.
We travelled down to Malaga about mid day ready to pick John and Sharon up from the Airport later in the evening. While Jayne went and had a look around Plaza Mayor I spent a couple of hours at the Guadalhorce River Mouth and Pools. The destruction on the beach was amazing; the water had carried massive amounts of debris and rubbish down stream and washed it out to sea. The tide had then washed it all back on to the beaches, piling it up 2 or 3 metres deep, several animal carcases were floating around in the shallows, including cattle, goats, sheep and several dogs.
Well that was the bad news, now for the birds, there were literally hundreds of Mediterranean (Gaviota Cabecinegra / Larus melanocephalus) and Black-headed Gulls (Gaviota Riedora / Larus ridibundus) feeding in the muddy waters at the mouth of the river. 
Dead Animals washed down from the fields.
A great many Lesser Black-backed (Gaviota Somria / Larus fuscus) and Yellow-legged Gulls (Gaviota Patiamarilla / Larus Michahellis) were floating around further out to sea with several Great Cormorants (Cormorán Grande / Phalacrocorax carbo) and a single winter plumage Black-necked Grebe (Zampullín Cuellinegro / Podiceps nigricollis).
On the beach on the opposite side of the river there were single Eurasian Oystercatcher (Ostrero Euroasiatico / Haematopus ostralegus), Whimbrel (Zarapito Trinador / Numenius phaeopus) plus a small number of Sanderling (Correlimos Tridáctilo / Calidris alba), all shuffling around between the tons of reed canes lying about. I then moved up to the reserve and as I was crossing the bridge the first of at least 4 Booted Eagles (Aguililla Calzada / Hieraaetus pennatus) flew out of the Eucalyptus trees, this one was a very dark morph bird.  
White-headed Duck (Malvasia Cabeciblanca / Oxyura leucocephala).
Later I would see another bird which was lighter in colour and 2 pale phases in the air together. On the main poolthere were a couple of White-headed Duck (Malvasia Cabeciblanca / Oxyura leucocephala), several Little (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis) and Black-necked Grebes (Zampullín Cuellinegro / Podiceps nigricollis) and loads of Common Pochard (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina) and Northern Shoveler (Cuchara Común / Anas clypeata). Then 2 Peregrine Falcons (Halcón Peregrino / Falco peregrinus) flew in together and landed on the dead tree on the opposite side of the lagoon. The one bird was the standard immature but the second was the northern race bird (Calidus) mentioned on Andy Pattersons Birding the Costa blog which caused a few problems for several birds. 
Mediterranean Gulls (Gaviota Cabecinegra / Larus melanocephalus).
The bird was much sandier than the standard bird and the head much paler. Both birds then flew off in the direction of Malaga and were soon replaced by some of the many Great Cormorants using the trees to roost and dry off. The long pool was very quiet, just a few hirundines whizzing low over the water and loads of Stripe-necked Terrapins (Mauremys leprosa). I had a quick look from the hump but a gain nothing new was added except for a load but well hidden Cetti’s Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti).
I then went and picked Jayne up and we had a late Menu del Dia at one of the places on the industial estate near the Airport and then went and picked up John and Sharon.