Friday, 30 December 2011

Cacín Valley and El Temple area, Granada Province.

Winter birding.

Well I say winter but the weather here is fantastic at the moment so I was in a short sleeved shirt all day until I was at the raptor roost in the evening. I started off at a site near El Turro where the first bird seen was a flyby Black-winged Kite (Elanio Común / Elanus caeruleus) which perched briefly in an Almond tree before moving out of site behind the mass of solar panels. Once out on the fields the Larks started to flush up from the track side fields, most were Calandra's (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra) and Skylarks (Alondra Común / Alauda arvensis) but there were also some Thekla (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae) and Crested Larks (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata) in the flocks along with good numbers of Rock Sparrows (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia) and Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina). I stopped and had a scan from the highest point near a derelict Cortijo and had brief views of 6 Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Ganga Ortega / Pterocles orientalis) as they disappeared from view over the nearby ridge, several Common Kestrels (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus) which were perched up on the no hunting signs and a Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis) which was surveying the area from a dead tree on a distant field edge. In the trees and scrub along a nearer margin Mistle Thrushes (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus) were scolding something that they did not like and a pair of Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata) leapt around and dived at what ever it was that had upset them. Other birds out on the fields included a Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua) catching some sun from the top of a rock pile along with good numbers of Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Meadow Pipits (Bistita Común / Anthus pratensis) and White Wagtails (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba). I then moved on down in to the Cacín Valley to the small Embalse but it was fairly quiet. The best bird was a male Marsh Harrier (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus) which flew around over the reedbeds for at least half an hour before dropping down into cover. Out on the water several male Northern Shovelers (Cuchara Común / Anas clypeata) dabbled and upended along the reed margins whist around 20 Common Pochard (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina) were feeding out in the deeper water with a few Little Grebes (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis). Five Great Cormorants (Cormorán Grande / Phalacrocorax carbo) were roosting on a dead tree stump surrounded by a dozen or so male Eurasian Teal (Cerceta Común / Anas crecca) all sat with their heads tucked in under their wings. A couple of Crag Martins (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris) were feeding above the tangle of dead branches in the shallow waters while dozens of Common Chiffchaffs (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita) flitted around in the thicket. From here I headed to Cacín and onwards to a site nearer to Granada where I was meeting friend Juan Pérez Contreras to watch the raptor roost. I arrived an hour or so early and as I drove into the site the first bird seen was an immature Pallid Harrier (Aguilucho Papialbo / Circus macrourus) which was perched on the perimeter fence. I had a quick look through the bins just to confirm the identification and then went on past the bird turned around and came back so that the scope which was already mounted on the window was on the right side. I focused in on the bird and had a good look before grabbing the camera which was my main mistake as just as I was lining the shot up the bird flew off along the fence line and away. After a few well chosen words of disappointment I relocated to the usual watch point just in time to get some nice views of a male Merlin (Esmerejón / Falco columbarius) flying over the next field, for some reason this bird must have forgotten how small it was and tried without success to take down a Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa) which just ruffled its wings and threw the small falcon off before walking a few steps and starting to feed again. A few minutes later whist still watching the falcon on the ground next to the Partridge I picked up a larger raptor approaching the spot, this time it was a female Hen Harrier (Aguilucho Pálido / Circus cyaneus) which also tried to have a go at the partridge but again this lucky bird slipped away but this time flew low and quickly away over the nearby ridge. The next bird was a female Sparrowhawk (Gavilán Común / Accipiter nisus) which flew low between the dead spikes of thistle plants flushing large numbers of smaller birds ahead of it. At 17:00 Juan arrived and things went quiet for a while but as the light began to drop the Hen Harriers started to arrive in the roost area and after the first couple of males and a female were seen the immature Pallid showed up and landed on a field some distance away. It made a couple of short flights before dropping on to some sort of prey, it then spent some time eating it before flying straight towards us and giving good views in the dropping light. As dusk arrived the next highlight of the evening gave us some fabulous views, a single Short-eared Owl (Búho Campestre / Asio flammeus) cruised around the site for the remaining 15 minutes before it was to dark to see anything worth while. Juan and I were just about to leave when we notice the Merlin come in quite close; it was a nice view with the bird flying through the orange glow of the sunset at the same moment as a male Hen Harrier. A good end to a good days birding.

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