Saturday 10 April 2010

Cacín Valley, Granada Province.

Another Day in the Cacín Valley. 
Chris Cook and his sister Jill and her husband Roger drove over from the accommodation in Montejaque, Cadiz Province for what I hoped would be a memorable days birding. We started with a short stop by a waterlogged field hoping to pick up Greater Short-toed Lark (Terrera Común / Calandrella brachydactyla) which we did with in a few minutes along with singing Nightingale (Ruisenor Común / Luscinia megarhynchos) and Cetti’s Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti), Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica), Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), Crested Lark (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinula Chloropus), Little Ringed Plover (Chorlitejo Chico / Charadrius dubius), Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), Spanish (Yellow) Wagtail (Lavandera Boyera / Motacilla flava iberiae) and Zitting Cisticola (Buitrón / Cisticola juncidis). 
We then moved on to the Poplar woods at the Rio Genil and Rio Cacin junction were as soon as we arrived the new birds were coming, 
A flock of Iberian  Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cooki) were feeding on the track just before the Rio and a Wryneck (Torcecuello / Jynx torquilla) could be heard in the distance. 
Along the Cacin we heard more Nightingales and Cetti’s Warblers, Great Spotted Woodpecker (Pico Picapinos / Dendrocopos major), Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes) and Bonelli’s Warbler (Mosquitero Papialbo / Phylloscopus bonelli) but the Hawfinches (Picogordo / Coccotraustes coccotraustes) only gave us brief views. We then visited an area of agricultural land above the Cacín Valley and almost straight away Jill picked up two Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Ganga Ortega / Pterocles orientalis) second before they flew off north. 
From the ruin a nice male Little Bustard (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax) was watched distantly and several Calandra Lark (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra) sang over head. A female Montagu's Harrier (Aguilucho Cenizo / Circus pygargus) flew gracefully along the distant ridge flushing Northern Wheatear (Collalba Gris / Oenanthe oenanthe) and both Crested (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata) and Thekla Larks (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae). 
On our way around the site at least two more male Bustards were heard and a cracking bird flew over us during a display flight. Along the far side of the area a couple of Little Owls (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua) were perched up on one of the rock piles and a single Great Spotted Cuckoo (Crialo Europeo / Clamator gladarius) showed well in an Almond tree. 
On some rocky rough ground Mirror (Ophrys speculum) and Yellow Bee Orchids (Ophrys lutea) were found in flower along with some nice spikes of Common Asphodel
Butterflies were also around in good numbers and they included Bath White (Pontia daplidice), Small White (Artogeia rapae), Provence Orange-tip (Anthocharis euphenodes), Iberian Scarce Swallowtail (Iphiclides feisthameli) and Swallowtail (Papilio machaon). 
The next stop was at the Embase de Cacín but again the waterfowl numbers were very low, a few Common Pochard (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina) and Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos) were the only duck seen. Two Little (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis) and a single Black-necked Grebe (Zampullín Cuellinegro / Podiceps nigricollis) were also on the water with Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinula Chloropus) and Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra). Chris the called a Marsh Harrier (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus) over the ridge on the opposite side of the lake, the rest of us looked and said that they were too big. Chris replied that its is a Marsh Harrier and that there was only one, so we soon worked out that we were watching different birds, as the two we were watching circled it was quickly apparent that the were both sub adult Golden Eagles (Águila Real / Aquila chrysaetos) and Chris had been watching a nice female Marsh Harrier
Just as the two Goldens disappeared they were replaced by two Short-toed Eagles (Culebrera Europeo / Circaetus gallicus), one of which drifted nicely overhead. Other birds noted whilst all this was going on included White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Red-rumped Swallow (Golondrina Dáurica / Hirundo daurica), Pallid (Vencejo Pálido / Apus pallidus) and Common Swift (Vencejo Común / Apus apus), Long-tailed Tit (Mito / Aegithalos caudatus), Jay (Arrendajo / Garrulus glandarius), Crag (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris) and House Martin (Avión Común / Delichon urbica), Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops), European Bee-eater (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster) and Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata). 
Lunch was the next stop, later we had a look for and found Bonelli’s Eagle (Aguila-azor Perdicera / Hieraaetus faciatus) getting nice views of a male. Several Red-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) and lots of Jackdaws (Grajilla / Corvus monedula) called nosily along the gorge; Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia), Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator), Blue Rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius) and Cleopatra (Gonepteryx cleopatra) butterfly were added at this stop. 
In the valley on the way back to Morelada we added Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla), Cirl Bunting (Escribano Soteno / Emberiza cirlus) were added and at the crags Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura) was seen on the rocky ledges. We then made our way back to the start point at Huetor and Chris, Jill and Roger started their journey back to their accommodation hopefully after enjoying a good day out. Later in the week I bumped into them over near Montejaque as they had not been able to return home due to the Icelandic Volcano mess up.

Wednesday 7 April 2010

Cacín Valley, Granada Province.

A morning in the windy valley.

Sierra Nevada.
I met up with Bob Wright from the Axiquara bird group at the Hotel Cortijo de Tájar just off the A92 at junction 203. We had a coffee and a chat before heading off to the Cacín Valley for a few hours birding. Our first site was an agricultural area where we immediatly started to pick up large flocks of Larks, mainly Calandra (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra) and Skylarks (Alondra Común / Alauda arvensis) with a few Thekla Larks (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae) also in the mix. A very nice male Merlin (Esmerejón / Falco columbarius) was then seen dashing low over the tops of the Almond trees, no doubt a small passerine was in it's sights. We parked and spent some time scanning the fields for the elusive Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Ganga Ortega / Pterocles orientalis), Little Bustards (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax) and Stone-curlew (Alcaraván Común / Burhinus oedicnemus) but the only sign was of the Sandgrouse which we only heard. 
Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea).
I was not surprised that the Little Bustards were absent as they tend to move off and form large winter flocks but having seen good numbers of the Curlews a few days earlier I was quite disappointed that we did not see them. 
A Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua) was seen in the ruin of an old Cortijo and several other species were picked up in the area including Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita), Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Miliaria calandra), a single Dartford Warbler (Curruca Rabilarga / Sylvia undata) was heard from some scrub, Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops), Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula), Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Meadow Pipit (Bistita Común / Anthus pratensis) and Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus).
We then headed down to Embalse de Cacín a small lake with a dam at one end and reed beds at the other. Yesterday I had been here with the SEO birds group and we had located a single male Red-knobbed Coot (Focha Moruna / Fulca cristata) amongst the reeds, fortunually the bird was still there but soon went into hiding in the marginal vegitation. 
About 180 Common Pochard (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina) were spread out on the lake along with good numbers of Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinula Chloropus), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), Great Cormorant (Cormorán Grande / Phalacrocorax carbo) x7, Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis) and a single Black-necked Grebe (Zampullín Cuellinegro / Podiceps nigricollis). 
Common Pochard (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina).
Whilst we were here we also picked up Common Buzzard (Busardo Ratonero / Buteo buteo), Cetti’s Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti) was heard from the reeds, a single Cattle Egret (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis) was noted on a gate post, Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina), Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), several Iberian Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor) and White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba).
We then retuned to the hotel where Bob headed off to Alhama to see the Ferruginous Duck (Porrón Pardo / Aythya nyroca) located the day before during the gull survey.

Tuesday 6 April 2010

Zafarraya area, Granada Province.

Orchids by the thousand.

Yellow Bee (Ophrys lutea).
After going to the English meeting at the Hotel above Riofrio, Jayne and myself had a drive out to check for parking space at a couple of sites which the group will be visiting later in the month. The first site there was a good number of Conical Orchids (Orchis conica) in flower, many more than in the last few years. 
Conical Orchid (Orchis conica).
But the opposite was found for Giant Orchid (Himanthoglosum robertiana), only about 10% of the plants compared to last year. Yellow Bee (Ophrys lutea) was common enough and a few spikes of Fan-lipped (Orchis collina), Sawfly (Ophrys tenthredinifera var tenthredinifera) and Mirror Orchids (Ophrys speculum) were found. Southern Early Purple (Orchis olbiensis) was found growing in the shade of the Oaks and was at its typical variable self, with flowers ranging from white with purple spots, through to deep purple with black spots. 
Southern Early Purple (Orchis olbiensis)-
Large numbers of leaf rosettes were found, which makes me think there will be a good show later in the month.
A pair of Woodlark (Totovia / Lullula arborea) were seen in the rocks on the field surrounds and a couple of singing male Bonelli’s Warblers (Mosquitero Papialbo / Phylloscopus bonelli) and a single  Firecrest (Reyezuelo Listado / Regulus ignicapillus) were heard.
Southern Early Purple (Orchis olbiensis).
The second spot a little nearer Zafarraya was much the better location, on the more open grassy slope many thousands of Yellow Bee Orchid were in flower with equal numbers still in bud. The Giant Orchids have done better here to, with about a 100 spikes being seen, along with Pink Butterfly Orchid (Orchis papillonecea), many more Conical and a few Sawfly it made quite a show.  Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator),  Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Long-tailed Tit (Mito / Aegithalos caudatus)  and Jay (Arrendajo / Garrulus glandarius) were also seen here and on the way home near Alhama de Granada we watched a cracking female Bonelli's Eagle (Aguila-azor Perdicera / Hieraaetus faciatus) hunting over the woodlands.

Monday 5 April 2010

Guadalhorce, Malaga Province.

Dennis and Ian, Day six. The homeward journey.

But not before we squeeze the last birding chance out of the trip. On the way to drop Ian at the airport we had a few hours birding at the Guadalhorce nature reserve. It was sunny but there was one hell of a wind blowing in off the sea, a few
Northern Gannets (Alcatraz Atlántico / Morus bassanus), single Balearic Shearwater (Pardela Balear / Puffinus mauretanicus), Sandwich Terns (Charrán Patinegro / Sterna sandvicensis) and a single and then another four Great Skuas (Págalo Grande / Catharacta skua) passed west. Black-headed (Gaviota Riedora / Larus ridibundus), Mediterranean (Gaviota Cabecinegra / Larus melanocephalus), Lesser Black-backed (Gaviota Somria / Larus fuscus) and Yellow-legged Gulls (Gaviota Patiamarilla / Larus Michahellis) were all seen and on the beach a group of four Ruddy Turnstone (Vuelvepiedras Común / Arenaria interpres) were feeding amongst the grot washed up around the rocks.
We then went out on to the main reserve and made our way to the large pool where there were a few nice groups of White-headed Duck (Malvasia Cabeciblanca / Oxyura leucocephala), Northern Shoveler (Cuchara Común / Anas clypeata), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), Gadwall (Anade Friso / Anas strepera) and Common Pochard (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina) riding what was quite a surf being whipped up by the strong wind. The new resident female Ruddy Shelduck (Tarro Canelo / Tadorna ferruginea) was seen as it swam along the back of the main pool, where she has come from is not known. Most likely it’s an escape from a wildfowl collection but I prefer the romantic thought that she’s battled her way up over the Atlas Mountains and thought that Malaga looked a great place to settle (well I now the last part will take some believing).
Black-necked (Zampullín Cuellinegro / Podiceps nigricollis) and Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis) and Little Ringed Plover (Chorlitejo Chico / Charadrius dubius) were also seen.
The long pool hide was quiet so we had a look from the raise bank but again nothing new was seen from here. The hide on the way out to the sea watch point produced little but at the second we had good views of five Spoonbills (Espátula Común / Platalea leucorodia) sweeping their headed side to side in their distinctive feeding manor, a very pale Booted Eagle (Aguililla Calzada / Hieraaetus pennatus) sat in a low tree, Black-winged Stilt (Ciguenuela Común / Himantopus himantopus), Little Egret (Garceta Común / Egretta garzetta) and Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea).
We also saw Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica), Sand (Avión Zapador / Riparia riparia) and House Martin (Avión Común / Delichon urbica), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinula Chloropus), Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra), Common Redshank (Archibebe Común / Tringa totanus), Pallid (Vencejo Pálido / Apus pallidus) and Common Swift (Vencejo Común / Apus apus), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Monk Parakeet (Cotorra Argentina / Myiopsitta monachus) and Nightingale (Ruisenor Común / Luscinia megarhynchos).
We then made our way to the airport where we said our goodbyes to Ian who was back to St Andrews, Dennis and myself then made our way down to Fuengirola where I met sister and her husband who made me very welcome. After a drink and chat I again said my goodbyes and headed for home via Iceland freezer center (I know it’s a bit English).

Sunday 4 April 2010

El Torcal and Fuente de Piedra, Malaga Province.

Dennis and Ian Day Five, Rocks and Flamingo's.

Ian, Dennis and I headed out to El Torcal for a more leisurely day and to try to see the local Griffon Vultures (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus). As we were arriving at the visitors centre car park we had a brief view of a single bird as it disappeared around the taller crags and that was it, we had the only view of the day. We parked and got out of the car and had quite a shock, it was dam freezing, layer after layer went on to Dennis, Ian and myself, well we carry an extra layer or two internally (Sorry Ian). We headed out to the Mirador for views down to the coast at Malaga, several Rock Buntings (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia), Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula) and Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes) joined the list. We then stopped at the visitors centre and had a loo break and a look in the shop. By the time we can out the biting wind had dropped a touch so we made the decision that we would do the short walk but in reverse. Down in the first ravine we saw several more Black Redstarts and added Blue Rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius) and a female Cirl Bunting (Escribano Soteno / Emberiza cirlus).
Dennis and Ian looking cold at Torcal.
On the top of this ridge we picked up a Robin (Petirrrojo / Erithacus rubecula) the first one of the trip, also see were Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina), House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer Domesticus), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis) and Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica). Once back at the car we made our way towards Antiquera and picked up yet another male Marsh Harrier (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus) on the way.
Ian looking warmer at Fuente.
We arrived at Fuente to be greeted by a sizable flock of Greater Flamingo’s (Flamenco Común / Phoenicopterus ruber) on the pool at the road side but this was nothing compared to the sight out on the lagoon. The waters were so high that the birds were very close to the banks and some were amongst the submerged Tamarisk trees. There were thousands of birds and they were giving the best views I had ever had at the site. On the pool by the road there were also good numbers of Black-winged Stilts (Ciguenuela Común / Himantopus himantopus), along with a few Little Ringed Plover (Chorlitejo Chico / Charadrius dubius). We walked out across the newish wooden bridge and along the track to the road, along this stretch we added a single male Garganey (Cerceta Carretona / Anas querquedula), Gull-billed (Pagaza Piconegra / Gelochelidon nilotica) and Whiskered Terns (Fumarel Cariblanca / Chlidonias hybridus), Cattle Egret (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis), Snipe (Agachadiza Común / Gallinago gallinago), Common Sandpiper (Andarrios Chico / Actitis hypoleucos), Common (Archibebe Común / Tringa totanus) and Spotted Redshanks (Archibebe Oscuro / Tringa erythropus), Ruff (Combatiente / Philomachus pugnax), Avocet (Avoceta Común/ Recurvirostra avosetta) and Common Pochard (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina).
Dennis also starting to thaw out.
On the far side of the roads the fields were still flooded and several more Common and Spotted Redshanks fed along with single Curlew Sandpiper (Correlimos Zarapitin / Calidris ferruginea) and Greenshank (Archibebe Claro / Tringa nebularia). Further on we checked an area of water with several Black-headed (Gaviota Riedora / Larus ridibundus), Lesser Black-backed (Gaviota Somria / Larus fuscus) and Yellow-legged Gulls (Gaviota Patiamarilla / Larus Michahellis) and then surprise of the morning, there were still two of the wintering Common Crane (Grulla Común / Grus grus) on the margins of the main lagoon. While we were standing checking through the gulls a Scop’s Owl (Autillo Europeo / Otus scops) was heard in the Olive Grove across the road. The whole time we had been walking out to this point there had been a massive flock of feeding birds over head including all five common Hirundines and both Swifts. We turned around and made our way back to the centre and around the tracks to the two hides over looking the fresh water pools, here we added Northern Shoveler (Cuchara Común / Anas clypeata), Red-crested Pochard (Pato Colorado / Netta rufina) and Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis).
Greater Flamingo’s (Flamenco Común / Phoenicopterus ruber).
Returning to the view point and looking out over the lagoon we managed to add a couple more species, White-headed Duck (Malvasia Cabeciblanca / Oxyura leucocephala), Great Crested (Somormujo Lavanco / Podiceps cristatus) and Black-necked Grebes (Zampullín Cuellinegro / Podiceps nigricollis) were the best. We then made our way back to the house for a quiet evening.