5 Eagle species in just 3 hours.
I had some jobs to catch up with in the morning so Jacko and I did not leave the house until 14:00ish heading for the Agricultural areas near Moraleda. As soon as we entered the sit we stopped so that I could put the scope on the window mount just in case anything sat long enough for me to mess around and get a shot of it. Whilst we were sorting out we had two Common Quail (Codorniz Común / Coturnix coturnix) fly across the track giving us both good but brief views of this secretive but noisy species. A couple of Short-toed Larks (Terrera Común / Calandrella brachydactyla) were singing overhead accompanied by a noisy Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra) which was sitting on a nearby broom bush. We then moved out on to the site where More Calandra and Short-toed Larks were seen along with both Crested (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata) and Thekla Larks (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Zitting Cisticola (Buitrón / Cisticola juncidis), Northern Wheatear (Collalba Gris / Oenanthe oenanthe) and Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica). We then move further through the site picking up a Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua) which was sat out on it’s regular rock pile, Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus), Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops) and Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala). We then had a drive along the side of one of the larger Almond groves and quickly picked up a cracking male Golden Oriole (Oropéndola / Oriolus oriolus) which sat out giving very good views, we also had at least 6 Great Spotted Cuckoos (Crialo Europeo / Clamator gladarius) amongst these trees and they also showed very well. As we were walking back to the car I heard a call that I knew meant that a flock of Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Ganga Ortega / Pterocles orientalis) had just taken to the air, with in seconds we were watching 15 of these cracking birds flying over the top of the Almonds we were standing in and then away over to the east. In the Almonds we found hundreds of flowering Yellow Bee Orchids (Ophrys lutea) even though the area had been ploughed up quite recentlyand we also found a swarm of Bees settled on a branch. The next bird a male Montagu's Harrier (Aguilucho Cenizo / Circus pygargus) then came up over the distant ridge and worked it’s way down the field towards us giving us a good chance to see all the plumage details on this fabulous bird. Other species at this area included Little Bustard (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax) heard only, Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator) a fine bird which posed nicely for the camera, Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica), both Common (Vencejo Común / Apus apus) and Pallid Swifts (Vencejo Pálido / Apus pallidus), Stone Curlew (Alcaraván Común / Burhinus oedicnemus), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Nightingale (Ruisenor Común / Luscinia megarhynchos), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus) and European Bee-eater (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster).
We next dropped down into El Turro and then headed South along the Valley to the bridge just before the Embalse de Cacín, here we had very good views of our first species of eagle which was a pair of Bonelli's (Aguila-azor Perdicera / Hieraaetus faciatus) which flew up the western ridge crossed the valley and flew right over us as they came back down the right hand side of the Valley. The size difference between the male and female was quite obvious as the two birds soared together. Here we also saw Blue (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus) and Coal Tits (Carbonero Garrapinos / Parus ater), a female Pied Flycatcher (Papamoscas Cerrojillo / Ficedula hypoleuca), female Cirl Bunting (Escribano Soteno / Emberiza cirlus), Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricapilla) and Turtle Dove (Tórtola Europea / Streptopelia turtur).
It was then on wards up to the lake which was still extremely low which meant that the wader seen yesterday were still present and these included 7x Black-winged Stilts (Ciguenuela Común / Himantopus himantopus), 20+ Common Sandpipers (Andarrios Chico / Actitis hypoleucos), 2x Green Sandpiper (Andarrios Grande / Tringa ochropus), 3x Greenshank (Archibebe Claro / Tringa nebularia), 2x Common Redshank (Archibebe Común / Tringa totanus) and Little Ringed Plover (Chorlitejo Chico / Charadrius dubius). We also had Common Pochard (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis), Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra) and Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinula Chloropus) out on the water. Other species seen were Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba) and the second species of eagle, a Short-toed (Culebrera Europeo / Circaetus gallicus) which was flying North up the Valley. We then called in at the Rio Cacín on the road in to the village of Cacín; here we quickly added Spotted Flycatcher (Papamoscas Gris / Muscicapa striata), Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla), Robin (Petirrrojo / Erithacus rubecula), Grey Wagtail (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs) and Great Tit (Carbonero Común / Parus major) to the afternoon’s list. We continued on up this road seeing Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa), Common Buzzard (Busardo Ratonero / Buteo buteo), Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis) and another Montagu’s Harrier. We turned off onto one of the many roads/tracks that cover this area and drove for a couple of kms to where it sends being drivable and scanned the area, we could hear Little Bustard, Corn Bunting, Thekla Lark and then we saw the bird we had come for, a huge 3rd year Spanish Imperial Eagle (Aguila Imperial Ibérica / Aguila adalberti) flew low to our left just a couple of hundred meters away and then landed on a large pile of rocks. The bird sat there long enough for us to get good views through the scope before lifting off and spending the next five minutes soaring around in front of us and giving views from all angles, this was a lifer for Jacko so he was well pleased and this obviously gave us Eagle three. We dropped down off the ridge back onto the road and stopped at a small area of Poplar trees and a reed beds, the first birds seen were both pale and dark phase Booted Eagles (Aguililla Calzada / Hieraaetus pennatus) which clattered out of the trees as we arrived (Eagle 4). We then turned around and drove back to the Lake where we hung around thinking that we may see the filth species of Eagle, whilst waiting we heard Reed Warbler (Carricero Común / Acrocephalus scirpaceus), Green Woodpecker (Pito Real / Picus viridis) and saw Thekla Lark well and then the filth Eagle arrived just as we were about to give up. A fine immature Golden Eagle (Águila Real / Aquila chrysaetos) came north along the Valley and passed by just a hundred meters in front of us. We then got a second view of Booted and Bonelli’s Eagles with the latter flying straight over our heads so low that I could not get the both wing tips in the bins.
Our last stop was at the crags below Moreleda were Blue Rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius), Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura), Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula) and Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris) were seen before we headed back to the house and then down the bar for a beer or five and some tapas.
Photographs from the top: Great Spotted Cuckoo (Crialo Europeo / Clamator gladarius), The Bees and a view of Sierra Nevada's fresh snow.