A cracking days birding with two American Ladies.
The day started right out side the ladies hotel up near the Alhambra where the first birds for Betina and Regina were Common Swift (Vencejo Común / Apus apus), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis) and Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus) with a nice male singing from the top of the nearby poplar trees. We then headed out of the City and our first call was at a semi-disused Cortijo where we quickly picked up several of the summer visiting Lesser Kestrels (Cernicola Primilla / Falco naumanni) which breed in the derelict parts of the buildings. From the surrounding bushes we could hear several Nightingales (Ruisenor Común / Luscinia megarhynchos) singing and at least 1 possible more Great Spotted Cuckoos (Crialo Europeo / Clamator gladarius) both species remained out of sight but views were had later in the day. On the Tamarisk trees lining a dry river bed we picked up the first of a few Melodious (Zarcero Común / Hippolais polyglotta) and Bonelli’s Warblers (Mosquitero Papialbo / Phylloscopus bonelli), Crested Lark (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata) and in a nearby dead tree several Jackdaws (Grajilla / Corvus monedula). All the time we were here we had flocks of Cattle Egrets (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis) passing overhead heading for the nearby rubbish dump where they spend the day feeding before retuning to their roost near Granada where during the winter months numbers can pass the 5000 mark easily. I was lucky enough to get a brief glimpse of a melanistic Montagu's Harrier (Aguilucho Cenizo / Circus pygargus) which passed over the fields whist we were watching another Bonelli’s Warbler. Up on the roadside we hade a fine male Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator) sat out on the chain-link fence along with a couple of Barn Swallows (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica). Other species seen here included Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), European Bee-eater (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula) and lots more Goldfinch.
We then moved on to an industrial estate nearby, on the way we had nice views of an adult Great Spotted Cuckoo as it flew across the road in front of us, we arrived at the next site where lark species were singing in every direction, first to be added was a Calandra Lark (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra) which stayed up high and did not give great views but a much better sighting was had later in the day and it was firmly on the list. A male Little Bustard (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax) was then seen at distance but again better views were had later. Corn Buntings (Triguero / Emberiza calandra) were singing from several of the dead thistle heads and it was while we were watching one of these birds that our attention was drawn to a couple of very small birds chasing around the bottom of a plant which turned out to be a pair of Spectacled Warblers (Curruca Tomillera / Sylvia conspicillata) a bird I had not seen at this spot before. Just as we were about to leave we picked up a couple of raptors circling, the lower larger birds was an immature Golden Eagle (Águila Real / Aquila chrysaetos) and the higher smaller bird was a dark phase Booted Eagle (Aguililla Calzada / Hieraaetus pennatus), both birds were seen well by us all in the scope. Here we also saw Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua) which was sitting on a light fitting on the side of one of the industrial units, Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis) on a street light, Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa), Common Swift and Barn Swallow.
Our next stop was at a bar in Ventas de Huelma where we were getting our sandwiches for lunch later, whilst here we added Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto) and House Martin (Avión Común / Delichon urbica). We then took a steady drive along the narrow road towards and into the Cacín Valley, on the way we stopped by an area of poplars and a small reed bed seeing a pale phase Booted Eagle, Turtle Dove (Tórtola Europea / Streptopelia turtur), a single Olivaceous Warbler (Zarcero Pálido / Hippolais pallida) which must have just been resting while move through to its breeding area, Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricapilla), Cetti’s Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti) and Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae). Further on we again made a rapid stop, this time for a 3rd summer type Bonelli's Eagle (Aguila-azor Perdicera / Hieraaetus faciatus) which passed low over head and a second Pale phase Booted Eagle. We then drove down through the very nice village of Cacín and stopped just after crossing the Rio Cacín after hearing a calling Wryneck (Torcecuello / Jynx torquilla) which we did not manage to track down but we did added a fine male Pied Flycatcher (Papamoscas Cerrojillo / Ficedula hypoleuca) along with a more drab female, Robin (Petirrrojo / Erithacus rubecula), Grey Wagtail (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea), Great (Carbonero Común / Parus major) and Blue Tits (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus), Red-rumped Swallow (Golondrina Dáurica / Hirundo daurica), Blackcap and Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus). We also heard but did not see Great Spotted Woodpecker (Pico Picapinos / Dendrocopos major), Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla) and Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes). We the continued on South along the valley to the roman bridge where several Rock Sparrows (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia) were seen on the bridge parapet, a male Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia) sang and showed nicely from a small bush and a couple of Red-billed Choughs (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) passed over nosily. Further down above the gorge we had good views of Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris), male Blue Rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina) and Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata). At this point we turned around and made our way back North to the Embalse de Cacín where we got the blanket out of the boot and sat down and had lunch whilst working our way through the birds which because the lakes water level was low included several wader species. There were at least 4 Black-winged Stilts (Ciguenuela Común / Himantopus himantopus), 2x Common Redshank (Archibebe Común / Tringa totanus), 2x Greenshank (Archibebe Claro / Tringa nebularia), 20+ Common Sandpiper (Andarrios Chico / Actitis hypoleucos), Little Ringed Plover (Chorlitejo Chico / Charadrius dubius) and a single Green Sandpiper (Andarrios Grande / Tringa ochropus). In the sticks in the centre of the muddy lake there were a couple of roosting Purple Herons (Garza Imperial / Ardea purpurea) and White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba) and in the reeds a singing Reed Warbler (Carricero Común / Acrocephalus scirpaceus) which remained hidden. On the water there were a few Common Pochard (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos) and a couple of Little Grebes (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis) and in the margins Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra) and Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinula Chloropus). Other species seen here included Pallid Swift (Vencejo Pálido / Apus pallidus), a cracking male Marsh Harrier (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus), Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops) and Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica). We then drove the shot distance down to the fist bridge over the Cacín where we had nice views of the secretive Water Rail (Rascón Europeo / Rallus aquaticus), Coal Tit (Carbonero Garrapinos / Parus ater), Cetti’s Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti) and Nightingale.
We continued on through El Turro and made a quick stop at the crags before Moraleda hoping for and getting views of a family party of Black Wheatears (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura), more Crag Martins, Jackdaws and another Blue-rock Thrush. Our final stop of the day was out on the agricultural areas nearby, as soon as we arrived we could here more Little Bustards calling from the cover of the corn / wheat fields but we did get a nice long view of a perched Calandra Lark and a well marked Short-toed Lark (Terrera Común / Calandrella brachydactyla) also showed quite well down in a sparser area of crop. We then drove out towards the old Cortijo and almost as soon as we left the Almonds we flushed up a couple of cracking male Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Ganga Ortega / Pterocles orientalis) which flew off but gave us good views. We spent some time looking around this site but we did not add anything new so we decided to start the drive back towards Granada slightly early but instead of hitting the motorway we went across country, during the drive we had good views of a really bright male Golden Oriole (Oropéndola / Oriolus oriolus) which flew out of a roadside tree and followed us along for a short way. During the day we had several species of Butterflies including Bath White (Blanqiverdosa / Pontia daplidice), Cleopatra (Cleopatra / Gonepteryx cleopatra), Clouded Yellow (Colias Común / Colias crocea), Common Blue (Icaro (Dos Puntos) / Polyommatus icarus), Large White (Pieris brassicae), Moroccan Orange Tip (Anthocharis belia), Small White (Artogeia rapae), Spanish Festoon (Zerynthia rumina), Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera) and Swallowtail (Papilio machaon).
We arrived back in Granada at around 17:00 after a very good days birding, seeing 80 species with another 4 down as heard only and another 4 which only I saw = total 88 for the day list.
Thank you Betina and Regina for your company.
Photographs from the top: male Lesser Kestrel (Cernicola Primilla / Falco naumanni), Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator), Corn Buntings (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), Purple Heron (Garza Imperial / Ardea purpurea) and Betina and Regina at the Sandgrouse site.