Tuesday 22 February 2011

Near Granada, Cacín Valley and Huetor Tajar, Granada Province.

Cross country from Granada, into the Cacín Valley and finish at Huetor.

Black-winged Kite (Elanio Común / Elanus caeruleus) by Steve Ballentine.
I picked Steve Ballentine up from his hotel in Granada and we headed out across country via a couple of sites to the Cacín Valley. As Steve is from Connecticut most of the birds we were going to see today would be new for him, this makes guiding a whole lot easier. On our way to the first site in the countryside to the west of the city we stopped on the road side and started Steve's list with Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba), Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra) and several hundred Western Cattle Egrets (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis) the one species that Steve was well aquainted with. We moved on and stopped a bit further on picking up the first of two Black-winged Kites (Elanio Común / Elanus caeruleus) for the day, Crested Lark (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata), Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica), Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus), Meadow Pipit (Bistita Común / Anthus pratensis) and Calandra Lark (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra).
We moved on and as we drove towards the valley Steve managed shots of Common Kestrel, Corn Bunting, Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto) and Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs). On the road down into the valley we got a brief view of a Golden Eagle (Águila Real / Aquila chrysaetos) as it past behind us and several Mistle Thrushes (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus) which sang from in the almond fields. We parked on the ridge looking down the valley and started to check the birds in the surrounding almond trees, they included a couple of heard but not seen Iberian Green Woodpecker (Pito Real / Picus sharpei), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Song Thrush (Zorzal Común / Turdus philomelos), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), a couple of Iberian Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis), Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus) Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata) and Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor). We decided to try and track down one of the Iberian Green Woodpeckers along a small farm road which took us through the trees. 
Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus) by Steve Ballentine.
We could not find a Woodpecker but had very good views of a pair of Woodlark (Totovia / Lullula arborea), Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricapilla), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae) and Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto).
We then drove through Cacín and on down the valley stopping a couple of times to check out little brown jobs that flitted across in front of the car. These included Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), a nice pair of Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura), Blue Tit (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus), Robin (Petirrrojo / Erithacus rubecula), Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia), Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes) and then the stars a pair of Bonelli's Eagles (Aguila-azor Perdicera / Hieraaetus faciatus) which showed well for us. On the way to Embalse de Cacín we added female Sparrowhawk (Gavilán Común / Accipiter nisus) and a male Merlin (Esmerejón / Falco columbarius) both of which flew in front of the car and swiftly disapeared, Great Tit (Carbonero Común / Parus major) and a Grey Wagtail (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea). 
Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia) by Steve Ballentine.
From the side of the lake we had cracking views of a female Marsh Harrier (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus), 30+ Common Pochard (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina), several Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra), single Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinula Chloropus) and Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis). On the margins a small flock of about 10 Thekla Larks were seen and over the water good numbers of House (Avión Común / Delichon urbica) and Crag Martins (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris) feed along side several Barn Swallows (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica). We then started to hear the now familliar call of the Iberian Green Woodpecker again but this time we tracked it down to one of the distant dead trees on the far side of the lake. Another bird then called from the ridge behind us but this time it was a newly arrived Great Spotted Cuckoo (Crialo Europeo / Clamator gladarius), it was distant but still nice to see. Other birds around the lake were Great Cormorant (Cormorán Grande / Phalacrocorax carbo), Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), the noisy Cetti’s Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti) but most frustrating was a calling Penduline Tit (Pájaro Moscón / Remiz pendulinus) which we just could not locate.
Bonelli's Eagle (Aguila-azor Perdicera / Hieraaetus faciatus) by Steve Ballentine.
We then pushed on up to the agricultural areas near by hopeing to add some of the resident Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Ganga Ortega / Pterocles orientalis) to the day list, as we arrived 8 Sandgrouse flew up from a weed field infront of us giving nice flight views. As the flock came around behind us it had incressed in number about 20 birds, they appeared to going to land for a fraction of a second but were up and this time away. A distant Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua) was seen on a pile of rocks, a male Marsh Harrier did a fly through and another Great Spotted Cuckoo was heard.
Our last stop of the day was on my local patch just north of Huetor Tajar were we had excellent views of a group of roosting Stone-curlew (Alcaraván Común / Burhinus oedicnemus), a flock of Eurasian Golden Plover (Chorlito Dorado Europeo / Pluvialis apricaia) and what was bird of the day for me, the second Black-winged Kite but the first record I have had for my patch.
Steve and I then headed back up to Granada and I dropped him of at the hotel and headed back home, on the way I tried to relocate the local patch Kite but it was not about and was not seen again over the next few days.

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