Friday 25 February 2011

Huetor Fields, Granada Province.

Dash to the shops.

It was going to be a quick dash down to the supermarket to grab a few bits but on the way I decided to go across the fields and along the river to see if I could pick up the Black-winged Kite (Elanio Común / Elanus caeruleus) Steve and I had seen a few days earlier. The Kite was not around but a least 30 Iberian  Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cooki) were in the same bushes along with a Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus), along the river there was a single Green Sandpiper (Andarrios Grande / Tringa ochropus), loads of White Wagtails (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba), Meadow Pipit (Bistita Común / Anthus pratensis) and Crested Larks (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata). Further on a small flock of Western Cattle Egrets (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis) were following a plough in one of the small fields and on the roadside brash I saw Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina) and Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata). Collared Doves (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto) and Spotless Starlings (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor) were on the wires and in a one of the Asparagus fields I eventually tracked down some of the Stone-curlews (Alcaraván Común / Burhinus oedicnemus) which had been flushed by a chap spraying their normal field with fertilizer. I then took one of the more rutted tracks out into the centre of the Lucerne fields where I managed to find just two of the 200 or so Little Bustards (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax) we have locally, it was a female with a nicely plumaged male bird.

Thursday 24 February 2011

Vanta de Zafarraya and Alhama Area, Granada Province.

Axarquia Bird Group Meeting.

Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia).
On the way down to the meeting point I called at a few places along the road between Salar and Zafarraya. The first stop was at a disused Cortijo on the side of the road where I picked up a small flock of Rock Sparrows (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia) perched on the wires and a Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua) which was sat on the roof trying to get a bit of warmth from the early sun. In the same area I picked up a couple of Jackdaws (Grajilla / Corvus monedula) sitting on a telegraph pole, Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer Domesticus) and Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica). 
Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua).
I then drove on over the large agricultural area on the road to Zafarraya, here I made several stops and added Crested (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata), Thekla (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Calandra (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra) and Skylarks (Alondra Común / Alauda arvensis), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor) and White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba). The next stop was to see if any of the Giant Orchids (Himantoglossum robertiana) were in flower, I was quite surprised when I got to the site to find the ground was crisp from quite a heavy overnight frost. The area was carpeted in the blue flowers of the Wide-leaved Iris (Iris planifolia), along with the second Orchid species of the year Giant Orchid, most were not yet in bloom but some were just about spot on and fresh. 
Giant Orchids (Himantoglossum robertiana).
Birds here included a couple of Mallards (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos) on the treatment works, Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita) which was in full song, Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Great Tit (Carbonero Común / Parus major), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Robin (Petirrrojo / Erithacus rubecula) and Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus).
Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura).
I then continued up to the meeting point on the walk way just on the outskirts of Venta de Zafarraya, it was cold in the shade of the hills so while I was waiting for the group to arrive I walked a short way up the track to get in the sun. Bob Wright and the others arrived and we had a walk along the track for a couple of Kms and then back. Before we had reached the tunnel we had seen Red-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes) Heard only, Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia), Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia), House (Avión Común / Delichon urbica) and Crag Martins (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris), Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura) and Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros). 
Group at Venta de Zafarraya.
Several species of Butterfly were seen including very good numbers of Spanish Festoon (Zerynthia rumina), Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae), Large (Pieris brassicae), Small (Artogeia rapae) and Bath Whites (Pontia daplidice), Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) and Clouded Yellow (Colias crocea). On the far side of the tunnel we saw Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Blue Rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina), Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricapilla) and Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata).
The next location was back at the orchid site as several of the group had not seen Giant Orchid before.
Wide-leaved Iris (Iris planifolia).
We then returned to the cars and drove out to an area Bob calls the Brambling fields on the road between Zafarraya and Alhama de Granada were we stopped on the road side and quickly added a small group of Iberian  Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cooki) to the list, there was also a flock of around 75 Red-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) circling away in the distance, Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae) and a single Cleopatra butterfly (Cleopatra / Gonepteryx cleopatra) which flew in front of the car as we left to go to the fields a little further on. Here we soon found the first Northern Wheatear (Collalba Gris / Oenanthe oenanthe) of the year for every one in the group, Calandra Lark (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra) and a single Short-toed Lark (Terrera Común / Calandrella brachydactyla) which did a quick fly past.
We then move on to the Pantaneta de Alhama a small pool just south of the town, on the water there were a few Common Pochard (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina), Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra) and a Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis) and in the woods we picked up Iberian Green Woodpecker (Pito Real / Picus sharpei) heard only, Cetti’s Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti), Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla), Firecrest (Reyezuelo Listado / Regulus ignicapillus) heard only and an early singing Subalpine Warbler (Curruca Carrasquena / Sylvia cantillans) which also remained elusive at the top of a thick pine tree. 
Looking at Orchids.
On the way back to the cars a single Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea) flew over the reeds and four Great Cormorants (Cormorán Grande / Phalacrocorax carbo) flew off and away from the pool. A Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) was also seen just before we set off back to Venta de Zafarraya and lunch. I then headed off home picking up a couple of Stone-curlews (Alcaraván Común / Burhinus oedicnemus), Zitting Cisticola (Buitrón / Cisticola juncidis) and Western Cattle Egret (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis) on the way.

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.