David and Steve's Spanish trip (Day two).
Day two started with fog covering the vega so we headed out towards the Cacín Valley but found that the higher areas were not much better so we pushed on down to the Embalse hoping it would clear and it did. The water in the lake was muddied by recent heavy rains so bird numbers were not too good but we saw 50+ Common Pochard (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina), a few Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), a fraction of the normal Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinula Chloropus), several Little (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis) and the single long term resident Black-necked Grebe (Zampullín Cuellinegro / Podiceps nigricollis) now in it’s black, white and grey winter colours. On the dead stumps at the southern end of the water there was just a single Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea) and a white bellied immature Great Cormorant (Cormorán Grande / Phalacrocorax carbo). On the fields surrounding the lake we added Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata) and Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros). On the over head wires several Common Magpies (Urraca / Pica pica), a Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus) and Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus) were all perched.
We carried on past Cacín and headed along the gorge, we stopped at a bend in the road to view a flock of finches which was mainly made up of Serins (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus) and Goldfinches but while we watched these we added male Blue Rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius) and Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura) to the day list.
We then continued on a little further along the valley but just as we reached our next stop the fog rolled in again. We did get brief views of two Bonelli’s Eagles (Aguila-azor Perdicera / Hieraaetus faciatus) one of which perched on the cliff directly opposite us but by the time the fog had cleared a bit the bird had moved on. On the bank opposite us we notice a sudden fast movement as a Weasel (Mustela nivalis) broke cover and scampered along the roadside for a few yards before it saw us, it then darted back under the tree roots where it had come from but not before we had some nice views.
Other birds seen along the road included Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricapilla), a male Cirl Bunting (Escribano Soteno / Emberiza cirlus) which dropped into cover before David and Steve got on to it but a couple of wintering Bramblings did perch nicely in the Poplar trees.
We then called at the bridge crossing the Rio Cacín were we picked up Blue (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus), Coal (Carbonero Garrapinos / Parus ater), Great (Carbonero Común / Parus major) and Long-tailed Tits (Mito / Aegithalos caudatus), Sparrowhawk (Gavilán Común / Accipiter nisus), Redwing (Zorzal Alirrojo / Turdus iliacus), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus) and Common Crossbill (Piquituerto Común / Loxia curvirostra).
Our last stop in the valley was on the agricultural areas where the fog still lingered but through the breaks were managed good views of at least 18 Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Ganga Ortega / Pterocles orientalis), Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua), Meadow Pipit (Bistita Común / Anthus pratensis), Rock Pigeon (Paloma Bravia / Columba livia), Calandra (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra) and Skylark (Alondra Común / Alauda arvensis).
After collecting some lunch from one of the bars in Moraleda we headed up the Sierra de Loja for the afternoon but things were quiet and we only managed to add a few new species including Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia), Red-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), Song Thrush (Zorzal Común / Turdus philomelos) and Dartford Warbler (Curruca Rabilarga / Sylvia undata) but we also got much better views of Black Wheatear and Common Crossbill.
Photographs from the top: Female Common Pochard (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina), Black-necked Grebe (Zampullín Cuellinegro / Podiceps nigricollis) and male Blue Rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius.
58 bird species seen.