A good days birding despite the weather.
Today I picked up Chris and Maria in Granada who are visiting from Minnesota in the USA. We headed out west of the city in the rain, the first stop was not far out of Granada and fortunately had some shelter from where we started the days list with lots of Corn Buntings (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), a distant Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis), several Calandra (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra) and Crested Larks (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata), Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor) and a couple of Little Owls (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua). We then started to make our way towards the Cacín Valley via Ventas de Huelma but before we had really started of we bumped into a group of 3 Hoopoes (Abubilla / Upupa epops) perched on the road side wires, Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus) and more Corn buntings. In Venta de Huelma we stopped for a Coffee and added Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto), House Martin (Avión Común / Delichon urbica), House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer Domesticus) and Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris) to the list. We then took the country road to Cacín and made a few stops in the extensive Almond groves, along here we battled the rain covered glasses to see Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus), Great Tit (Carbonero Común / Parus major), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricapilla), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Jay (Arrendajo / Garrulus glandarius) which was only heard, better views of Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis) and White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba). Just above Cacín we turned off on to one of the side tracks through the trees and parked, here we got good views of Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae) and Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa).
We then dropped down through the village of Cacín and into the valley; we stopped near a small garden with several Pomegranate trees with some shriveled fruits. Here we got better views of Blackcap and added Blue Tit (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus), a little further along the road we again stopped and this time picked out a single Brambling (Pizón Real / Fringilla montifringilla) and Redwing (Zorzal Alirrojo / Turdus iliacus). In the gorge we got good views of a female Bonelli's Eagle (Aguila-azor Perdicera / Hieraaetus faciatus), more Jackdaws, Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura), Blue Rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina), heard Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia) and I also got several brief views of Rock Buntings (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia) as they flicked over the cliff edges but I don’t think either Chris of Maria got on to any of these birds. We then turned around and headed towards the Embalse de Cacín, on the way we again stopped and got good views of Jay, Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Robin (Petirrrojo / Erithacus rubecula), Song Thrush (Zorzal Común / Turdus philomelos) and Woodlark (Totovia / Lullula arborea).
As we arrived at the lake we had flight views of a pair of Marsh Harrier (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus) as they flew up the valley. On the water there were good numbers of Common Pochard (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina), Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis), a single Black-necked Grebe (Zampullín Cuellinegro / Podiceps nigricollis), Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra) and Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos). Hirundine were seen in good numbers with House and Sand Martins (Avión Zapador / Riparia riparia) being out number 2 to 1 by Barn Swallows (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica). Also seen and heard here were Great Cormorant (Cormorán Grande / Phalacrocorax carbo), Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita), Green Woodpecker (Pito Real / Picus viridis), Cetti’s Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinula Chloropus) and Water Rail (Rascón Europeo / Rallus aquaticus). We made one last stop before we had a food stop in El Turro to have a look at the Somber Bee Orchids (Ophrys fusca) which grow on the road sides, we also added Coal Tit (Carbonero Garrapinos / Parus ater) but only on call.
After lunch we continued on to the crags were we walked out across the fields to have a look at the Visigoth tombs on the top of one of the rocky out crops. We also saw Fan-lipped Orchid (Orchis Collina) and had a look at some ruined Arab baths.
We then moved up on to some large fields were the tracks were somewhat boggy, but we managed to get to the normal spot where we look for the resident Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Ganga Ortega / Pterocles orientalis). We got out of the car and quickly picked up at least 20 Sandgrouse flying in several small flocks, a few of the birds landed on our side of a ridge which gave us some nice views on the ground. We also had large numbers of Calandra Larks at the site. As we were about to leave we heard the rattling call from a Great Spotted Cuckoo (Crialo Europeo / Clamator gladarius) in the nearby Almond trees. We started to drive back towards the trees to try and see the bird, before we even made it half way the bird was picked up flying towards us, while we were watching the bird we picked up a really big female Peregrine Falcon (Halcón Peregrino / Falco peregrinus) perch some distance away in a dead tree. Just as we made it back on to the road we noted several falcons in the trees on the opposite side of the road, immediately they were identified as a flock of at least 8 Lesser Kestrels (Cernicola Primilla / Falco naumanni) with at least a couple of nice males.
We had good views of these birds before starting to make our way back towards Granada, just before we reached Venta de Huelma on the Castillo de Tajarja road we had a Short-eared Owl (Búho Campestre / Asio flammeus) perched out in the open on a post. The last bird of the day was a fine Black-winged Kite (Elanio Común / Elanus caeruleus) on a road side lamp just the other side of the village. After a wet, hard birding start to the day we cleaned up on some very good species by the time we finished.
Photographs from the top: Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua), Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita), Somber Bee Orchids (Ophrys fusca), Chris and Maria at the Visigoth tombs, Fan-lipped Orchid (Orchis Collina) and Peregrine Falcon (Halcón Peregrino / Falco peregrinus).