A pleasant days birding and a Granada Province tick.
I met Paul and Frances at the Cortijo de Tajar Hotel, they had travelled over yesterday from Aguadulce area near to Osuna for a days birding. We set off heading towards the Cacín Valley passing Moraleda and straight out on to the agricultural areas nearby, on the way we picked up a Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae) which was perched on some of the fly-tipped builders rubbish which seems to be one of the most out standing features of this part of Moraleda these days and a roosting Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua) which was perched on the remains of a half built swimming pool! Once out on the fields we soon added Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), Calandra Lark (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra), Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica), Rock Pigeon (Paloma Bravia / Columba livia), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor) and Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica) to the day list. We parked by the derelict Cortijo and scanned the fields and Almond groves nearby, several Great Spotted Cuckoo’s (Crialo Europeo / Clamator gladarius) could be heard then a couple of birds started to chase each other through the trees before one perched in the top of one amongst the blossom. A Black-winged Kite (Elanio Común / Elanus caeruleus) then flashed across the field and into the same grove of Almonds and back near the car a male Marsh Harrier (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus) flapped right across the site giving us much better views. Just as we were getting back into the car our second Little Owl flew up from inside the Cortijo and dropped down into the field nearby. We drove down one of the other tracks on the site where we had flight views of a male Little Bustard (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax) which unfortunately dropped down behind a ridge out of view, also here we added Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina), Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis) and Crested Lark (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata). On the way to the crags below Moraleda we picked up a couple of Hoopoe’s (Abubilla / Upupa epops), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer Domesticus), House Martin (Avión Común / Delichon urbica) and a pair of Common Crossbills (Piquituerto Común / Loxia curvirostra) which came up off the road just Infront of us which gave nice close views of the male in his nice red/orange plumage. Along the crags there were good numbers of Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula), several Common Kestrels, males of both Blue Rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius) and Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura), calling Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris) and Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus).
We then retraced our tracks back to El Turro and continued on down the Valley towards the Embalse de Cacín stopping on the way to look at some Ophrys forestieri which were growing on the roadside but in much reduced numbers due to the council scrapping the verges. Here we had brief views of 3 Short-toed Eagles (Culebrera Europeo / Circaetus gallicus) as they moved behind the trees, Coal Tit (Carbonero Garrapinos / Parus ater), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs) and Great Tit (Carbonero Común / Parus major). Our next stop was at the bridge over the Rio Cacín just below the dam, here we heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker (Pico Picapinos / Dendrocopos major) drumming and it was soon located hammering away on one of the telegraph pole along the river. We also saw and heard Cetti’s Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti), Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricapilla), Song Thrush (Zorzal Común / Turdus philomelos), Long-tailed Tit (Mito / Aegithalos caudatus), White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto) and Blue Tit (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus).
The water level was very low at the Embalse and bird numbers were well down, we did add Common Pochard (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina), Northern Shoveler (Cuchara Común / Anas clypeata), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinula Chloropus), Great Cormorant (Cormorán Grande / Phalacrocorax carbo), a displaying male Marsh Harrier, Common Swift (Vencejo Común / Apus apus) and Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea).
Considering the low level of the water I was quite surprised to find just singles of Green Sandpiper (Andarrios Grande / Tringa ochropus) and Common Redshank (Archibebe Común / Tringa totanus) on the mud. We continued further on down to the roman bridge that crosses the gorge, here Blue Tit (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus) was the only new bird for the day list. We continued a little further on along the gorge before stopping and having our lunch in the now quite warm sunshine. Paul then spotted a male Bonelli's Eagle (Aguila-azor Perdicera / Hieraaetus faciatus) coming in low along the cliffs, it showed very well before turning and heading back towards the bridge. Here we also had several Red-billed Chough’s (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), better views of a male Blue Rock Thrush and several species of Butterfly including Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera), Swallowtail (Papilio machaon), Bath White (Blanqiverdosa / Pontia daplidice), Cleopatra (Cleopatra / Gonepteryx cleopatra), Clouded Yellow (Colias Común / Colias crocea) and Small White (Artogeia rapae).
After lunch we headed to the furthest point south we were going which bought us to the shores of Embalse de Bermejalis where we parked and looked for some Orchids in the Pine woods. We found more Ophrys forestieri, a single very smart plant of Sawfly Orchid (Abejorros, flor de avispa / Ophrys tenthredinifera) and a nicely flowering spike of Giant Orchid (Barlia robertiana). As usual the lake was devoid of birds so we pushed on back north along the road to Ventas de Huelma and then we took the road back to Cacín from there. I had told Paul and Frances how good this road was for large raptors so I was very a little disappointed when we had done a drive along the first track that the biggest thing we had seen was a single Common Buzzard (Busardo Ratonero / Buteo buteo) and a Kestrel. We were back on the main road when I was pleased to pick up a big raptor off to our right and was even more pleased when I realised that it was an immature Spanish Imperial Eagle (Aguila Imperial Ibérica / Aguila adalberti) a new bird for my Granada Province list. The only down side was that the bird disappeared very quickly and by the time we reached the near by high point we could not relocate it. From this point we did add 3 Golden Eagles (Águila Real / Aquila chrysaetos) and 2 more Common Buzzards to the list. We then dropped back down to the Cacín Valley and had a second look at the Embalse where we picked up a small flock of at least 6 Eurasian Teal (Cerceta Común / Anas crecca), a female Marsh Harrier and the only Robin (Petirrrojo / Erithacus rubecula) of the day.
Next we had a second bash at getting the Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Ganga Ortega / Pterocles orientalis) we had missed earlier but again we had no joy, we did see 2 Lesser Kestrels (Cernicola Primilla / Falco naumanni), Meadow Pipit (Bistita Común / Anthus pratensis) and I heard a Stone-curlew (Alcaraván Común / Burhinus oedicnemus) calling from some olives nearby. We drove around the site and exited via a different route and added a single Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis) and a male Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros).
We returned to the Hotel via Mesia where a pair of Little Ringed Plovers (Chorlitejo Chico / Charadrius dubius) were seen on the river and Huetor Fields where we added Cattle Egret (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis) and a pair of Stone-curlews but dipped on the wanted Azure-winged Magpies (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus).
A total of 67 species of birds were seen during the day.
Photographs from the top: Paul and Frances at Embalse de Cacín, Ophrys forestieri, Bath White (Blanqiverdosa / Pontia daplidice), Small White (Artogeia rapae), Sawfly Orchid (Abejorros, flor de avispa / Ophrys tenthredinifera) and Giant Orchid (Barlia robertiana).