Second day's birding this week with an America Visitor.
Jacko and I set off up to Granada at around 07:00, I dropped Jacko off near the Alhambra to do some birding in the gardens and surrounding area and then picked up Hilary nearby. Hilary and I were going to be having a days birding in the Cacín Valley area so we set off to the first site which was on the way at a semi-disused Cortijo. The first birds seen were at least 15 Lesser Kestrels (Cernicola Primilla / Falco naumanni) which were breeding in the derelict parts of the buildings, also around the area were Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica), Crested Lark (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata) and a single Spotted Flycatcher (Papamoscas Gris / Muscicapa striata). In the dry Barranco we picked up Nightingale (Ruisenor Común / Luscinia megarhynchos) and Melodious Warbler (Zarcero Común / Hippolais polyglotta), two species at opposite ends of the beautiful song ratings. On the fence that surrounded the nearby industrial estate we added Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus) and Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica). We then moved on to the industrial area where we immediately picked up a male Little Bustard (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax) which was displaying quite near the fence, leaping into the air and walking around with his neck feathers all puffed out. Both male and female Common Kestrels (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus) were sat up on the lamp posts, both Crested and Calandra Larks (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra) called overhead and a pair of Red-rumped Swallows (Golondrina Dáurica / Hirundo daurica) did an areal display around some half completed buildings. We then continued on towards the Cacín Valley via Ventas de Hulmera, just before we reached the town Hilary spotted two birds in a newly ploughed field so we turned around and had cracking views of a pair Stone Curlews (Alcaraván Común / Burhinus oedicnemus). On the Cacín road our first stop was by a poplar plantation and reed bed, here we picked up Cetti’s Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti) heard only, Olivaceous Warbler (Zarcero Pálido / Hippolais pallida) I was surprised to find this bird still here, female Pied Flycatcher (Papamoscas Cerrojillo / Ficedula hypoleuca), Turtle Dove (Tórtola Europea / Streptopelia turtur) which was purring from a nearby dead tree, Common Whitethroat (Curruca Zarcera / Sylvia communis), a male Subalpine Warbler (Curruca Carrasquena / Sylvia cantillans) which did its best not to be seen by Hilary but was eventually added, A male Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs) singing with a bill full of grubs and a very dark Common Buzzard (Busardo Ratonero / Buteo buteo). We then turned off on to one of the local farm tracks and quickly added a pale phase Booted Eagle (Aguililla Calzada / Hieraaetus pennatus) to the days list and further along we picked up a couple of obliging Thekla Larks (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae) which showed well by the side of the track. Also seen along here were Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus) and at the end of the track there were a couple more calling Little Bustards and two males which were doing battle in a nearby ploughed field. Before we dropped down into Cacín we heard and saw several Nightingales (Ruisenor Común / Luscinia megarhynchos), Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricapilla), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto), House Martin (Avión Común / Delichon urbica) and House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer Domesticus).
Just beyond the village of Cacín we stopped and viewed the mixed woodlands along the river and had a walk to the south viewing some more poplar plantations. From the bridge we picked up another female Pied Flycatcher, Robin (Petirrrojo / Erithacus rubecula), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Winter Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes), Barn (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica) and more Red-rumped Swallows and a male Golden Oriole (Oropéndola / Oriolus oriolus) which was singing loudly close to the road but remained elusive. We had a stroll along the river and had excellent views of a single Long-tailed (Mito / Aegithalos caudatus), Blue (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus) and a nesting Great Tit (Carbonero Común / Parus major), more Nightingales and Blackcaps.
We then continued on south along the valley to the roman bridge where several Rock Sparrows (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia) were perched on the parapet as we arrived but did a bunk before Hilary had had decent views but on the return journey they were seen well. We walked across the bridge and from the far side saw Red-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), 2 Common Cuckoos (Cuco Común / Cuculus canorus) which we could only hear at first but they started to chase each other along the valley towards us and flew right over our heads, a male Blue Rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius) which again flew before Hilary had seen it, Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina) and Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris). Our next stop was down on the shore of Embalse de Bermejales were we only added 4 more species, a pair of Little Ringed Plovers (Chorlitejo Chico / Charadrius dubius), White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba), Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus) and Common Crossbill (Piquituerto Común / Loxia curvirostra), we also heard both Coal Tit (Carbonero Garrapinos / Parus ater) and Bonelli’s Warbler (Mosquitero Papialbo / Phylloscopus bonelli).
We now retraced our steps back up the valley towards Embalse de Cacín but stopped by a bridge which crossed the river on one of the farmers tracks the flow of water had increased greatly since the last visit, here I saw a single Garden Warbler (Curruca Mosquitera / Sylvia borin) and we could both here a Wryneck (Torcecuello / Jynx torquilla) but this also stayed out of sight. Once we reached the lake it was obvious that the increased flow on the river had bought the water level up considerably but all the wader species were still there but in smaller numbers, these included Little Ringed Plover, Greenshank (Archibebe Claro / Tringa nebularia) x3, Common Redshank (Archibebe Común / Tringa totanus) x2, Common Sandpiper (Andarrios Chico / Actitis hypoleucos) x10+, Green Sandpiper (Andarrios Grande / Tringa ochropus) x1 and Black-winged Stilt (Ciguenuela Común / Himantopus himantopus) x4. On the water there were small numbers of Common Pochard (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinula Chloropus) and Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis). Over head we picked up another pale phase Booted Eagle and a distant but identifiable pair of Bonelli's Eagles (Aguila-azor Perdicera / Hieraaetus faciatus) which were displaying over the far ridge, both Common (Vencejo Común / Apus apus) and Pallid Swifts (Vencejo Pálido / Apus pallidus), a male Marsh Harrier (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus) which displayed over the reed beds and a single Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea) which flew the length of the lake and disappeared. In the woods on the far side we eventually managed to track down a calling Green Woodpecker (Pito Real / Picus viridis) which was well hidden in a dead tree. We headed north to the small bridge over the river just passed the dam where we added Reed Warbler (Carricero Común / Acrocephalus scirpaceus) after only hearing it up at the lake plus we heard and saw more Nightingales, Melodious Warbler and another elusive Wryneck.
We then went to a small bar in Cacín for some lunch (thanks Hilary) before continuing on up the road to the crags below Moreleda, here we were hoping for Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura) which we got fine and Blue-rock Thrush which we saw but as Hilary quite rightly said it was not close enough for her to tick it as it was a lifer, we waited around hoping it would come closer but it played hard to get so we went up on to the agricultural area above El Turro getting nice views of a perched European Bee-eater on the way. Once on the fields we started the search for the Sandgrouse, whilst we searched we had nice views of Calandra and Short-toed Larks (Terrera Común / Calandrella brachydactyla), heard Common Quail (Codorniz Común / Coturnix coturnix) and more Little Bustards. We then went into one of the Almond Groves and had nice views of several Great Spotted Cuckoos (Crialo Europeo / Clamator gladarius), heard more Stone Curlews and watched a 1st summer male Montagu's Harrier (Aguilucho Cenizo / Circus pygargus) at close range. On the drive back up to the entry track we saw a very nice brightly plumage male Black-eared Wheatear (Collalba Rubia / Oenanthe hispanica) on a pile of rocks and pretty much the last bird of the day was a male Spectacled Warbler (Curruca Tomillera / Sylvia conspicillata) which darted around in the lower branches of some small Olive trees. In the Alomonds there were hundreds of Yellow Bee Orchid (Ophrys lutea) in perfect flower. We missed the Sandgrouse today but we did get some quality birds at this last site. We then drove back up to the city where I said goodbye to Hilary and collected Jacko after his long days birding.
Thanks Hilary for your company on a cracking days birding, Mick.
Photographs from the top: Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), juvenile Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus) and Yellow Bee Orchid (Ophrys lutea).