Saturday 31 December 2011

The end of year totals.

I have had a good year in most areas of the wildlife I look for, Orchids have probably been the best with 8 new species being added to my Spanish list and a total for the year of 46 full species plus a few subspecies and a couple of impressive hybrids.
The Bird list was about average with 238 species being seen including some special ones which will remain in the memory for a long time including Greater Spotted Eagle (Aguila Moteada / Aguila clanga), Pallid Harrier (Aguilucho Papialbo / Circus macrourus), Spanish Imperial Eagle (Aguila Imperial Ibérica / Aguila adalberti), White-rumped Swift (Vencejo Cafre / Apus caffer) and Great Black-backed Gull (Gavión Atlantico / Larus marinus).
I saw more species of Dragonfly in 2011 than in any year to date but missed quite a few expected insects. I ended the year with a total of 27 but it could easily have been over 30. The only new species for the year Small Spreadwing (Lestes virens) and Migrant Spreadwing (Lester barbarus) were both seen quite locally on a small agricultural area pool.
The same could be said for the Butterflies with over 70 species being recorded including 12 new ones. I looked through the list of what I had missed and there were at least another 10 that I should have seen.
All in all a good year but hope to catch up with a few more lifers in 2012.

Happy New Year and thanks for reading.

Granada City, Granada Province.

Stroll around the Alhambra Gardens.

Entrance to the Alhambra area.
Jayne and I went to the Saturday market on the southern side of the city and then went for a walk around the gardens surrounding the Alhambra looking for a hole in a tree where our friend Juan had seen a roosting Tawny Owl (Cárabo Común / Strix aluco). We were not sure we had found the right hole as we could not see any sign of an Owl so I gave Juan a call on his mobile to check we were at the right spot. He answered and said that he was close by himself and he and his wife Beatriz would come up and show us the right spot. 
Large fountain in the gardens.
Unfortunately we were in the right spot and the Owl was not showing. We then had a wander around the gardens together looking for other species but it was quite quiet and we did not catch up with any of the Redwings (Zorzal Alirrojo / Turdus iliacus) or Hawfinches (Picogordo / Coccotraustes coccotraustes) he had seen the morning before. We did see Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricapilla), Blue Tit (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Great Tit (Carbonero Común / Parus major), Grey Wagtail (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea), House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer Domesticus), Long-tailed Tit (Mito / Aegithalos caudatus), Robin (Petirrrojo / Erithacus rubecula), Song Thrush (Zorzal Común / Turdus philomelos) and White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba). 
On the way back down to the city.
We also saw a single Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) and a tailless Iberian Wall Lizard (Podarcis hispanica).

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 Iberian 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.

Monday 26 December 2011

Loja, Granada Province.

Royal British Leigion Walking Group.

Wide-leaved Iris (Iris planifolia).
Today was mainly a reason to walk off some of yesterdays exesses, eight members of the walking group met at the Bar Alamo in the San Francisco area of Loja for a coffee before we started our walk up to wards the railway station. Whist we were having our drinks a male Sparrowhawk (Gavilán Común / Accipiter nisus) was seen on one of the nearby roads chasing a group of House Sparrows (Gorrión Común / Passer Domesticus) around and right underneath one of the parked cars. On the walk up the hill out of town I also added a Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla) which was climbing the out side wall of one of the old engine sheds, Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto), White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba) and Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala). Once at the top of the hill we skirted the lower slopes of Hacho and walked on towards the fish farms below the Frontil Industrial estate. Along here I had some fleeting glimpes of a male Blue Rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius), Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura), Common Crossbill (Piquituerto Común / Loxia curvirostra), loads of Serins (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus) and Goldfinches (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis) and a pair of Thekla Larks (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae). Along the track there were also several plants of the early flowering Wide-leaved Iris (Iris planifolia). 
The Walkers.
Down by the fish farms there is a cristal clear stream which is packed full of Iberian Barble and smaller fish, birds included Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinula Chloropus), Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita), Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor) and a couple of nicely plumaged Grey Wagtails (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea). We then walked out towards the Los Infiernos water Falls, crossing the fields we flushed up a huge flock of several hundred Goldfinches, Linnets and Serins plus a few Meadow Pipit (Bistita Común / Anthus pratensis). We then started to make our way back along some tracks from Esperanza via the old railway station to the Bar Alamo, on the way I added Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs) and Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra). We finished the walk with a very nice beer before heading back home.

Sunday 25 December 2011

Near Huétor Tajar, Granada Province, Spain.

Happy Christmas to all the readers.

Lola and her son.
Thank you very much for taking the time to read this blog, I hope to keep it going and keep it as interesting as possible. Please make comments, as I would like to know what people think about the content.
Here's a photograph of Lola and her son our Spanish neighbours who paid us a visit at 9:30 last night singing Spanish Carols and handing out edible Acorns and other fruit. We did them a swap and gave them some Liquorice Allsorts which Lola took a particular liking to.

Again thanks for reading and have a great Christmas and New Year.   Mick.