12 year ticks, 4 Granada Province ticks and 2 Spanish lifers.
I was up and out of the house by 06:00 on my way to meet Juan for a days birding and Orchid hunting down in the Motril area. On my way down to Huétor Tajár and the A92 I got the first nice bird of the day when I saw a fine Barn Owl (Lechuza Común / Tyto alba) in the head lights perched up on a road side telegraph pole, a good start but it was only going to get better! Juan and I started the drive down to the coast and as we reached the Acebuches area on the motorway the very large broad wings of an Eagle Owl (Buho Real / Bubo bubo) flapped in front of us, the second year tick and the sun was not even up yet.
Once down near Motril we went and had a look at the agricultural area and marshes near Charca, straight away we picked up several Red Avadavat (Bengali Rojo / Amandava amandava) and started to hear calling Common Quail (Codorniz Común / Coturnix coturnix). in the reeds Nightingales (Ruisenor Común / Luscinia megarhynchos), Zitting Cisticola (Buitrón / Cisticola juncidis) and Blackcaps (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricapilla) were all singing. In this area we also saw Tree Sparrow (Gorrión Molinero / Passer Montanus), Yellow Wagtail (Lavandera Boyera / Motacilla flava), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Pallid (Vencejo Pálido / Apus pallidus) and Common Swifts (Vencejo Común / Apus apus), Meadow Pipit (Bistita Común / Anthus pratensis), Marsh Harrier (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus), Little (Garceta Común / Egretta garzetta) and Cattle Egrets (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis), House Martin (Avión Común / Delichon urbica), Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops) and Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris). The one species I had hoped we would see here was Savi's Warbler (Buscarla Unicolor / Locustella luscinoides) but we did not see or hear any sign.
We then made our way around to the entrance of the reserve where we met up with several birders from Malaga, Manuel Mañani the warden arrived and we all went in and started to have a look around. Juan and I were only staying for a short period on this visit and returning later in the day as we were going to search for some Orchids nearby. We had 40 minutes or so there and made the most of it from the first hide on the anticlockwise route we saw a nice female Little Bittern (Avetorillo Común / Ixobrychus minutus) which was struggling through the brambles and dead reed stems on the left hand bank, Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinula Chloropus) and Nightingale. On the way around to the next hide we added at least 5 Night Herons (Marinete Común / Nycticorax nycticorax), Purple Heron (Garza Imperial / Ardea purpurea), Booted Eagle (Aguililla Calzada / Hieraaetus pennatus) and once we were in side the hide Purple Swamp-hen (Calamón Común / Porphyrio porphyrio), Sand Martin (Avión Zapador / Riparia riparia), White (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba) and Yellow Wagtails and Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis) were soon ticked off. We then walked back passed the office and around clockwise to the first hide on this side of the reserve, on this smaller pool we could hear several Sedge Warblers (Carricerin Común / Acrocephalus schoenobaenus) in the bushes on the far side of the reeds, a Purple swamp-hen was sat on a pile of cuttings preening and a Water Rail (Rascón Europeo / Rallus aquaticus) called from deep cover and on the bank nearby I picked up my second Common Whitethroat of the morning but this time it was a male.
We then made our way back to the entrance where Manuel let us out of the gates and we made our way further East along the coast and then inland and up a mountain. After some distance along a rutted dirt track Juan decided that his car was not really designed for this so we got onto shanks pony and legged it the last bit. Once in the area we started to find lots of Pink Butterfly (Orquídea mariposa / Orchis papilionacea), a few Yellow Bee (Ophrys lutea), Fan-lipped (Orchis collina), Sawfly (Abejorros, flor de avispa / Ophrys tenthredinifera) and Mirror Orchids (Espejo de Venus / Ophrys speculum subsp speculum). There were plenty of wild flowers around including Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis), White Asphodel (Asphodelus albus), Crown Daisy (Chrysanthemum carinatum), Galactites tomentosa, Field Gladiolus (Gladiolus italicus) and carpets of the problem Bermuda Buttercup
Butterflies were also seen and these included Bath White (Pontia daplidice), Clouded Yellow (Colias crocea), Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus), Large White (Pieris brassicae), Moroccan Orange Tip (Anthocharis belia) and Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria). On the walk around the two ravines we also saw Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Short-toed Eagle (Culebrera Europeo / Circaetus gallicus), European Bee-eater (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster), Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus), Blue Rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius) and a female Blackcap. We made our way back down to the car and headed back towards Charca but this time took the road straight down into Motril over the mountain scrub area and then down through the pine woods. Along this stretch we saw or heard Blue (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus), Coal (Carbonero Garrapinos / Parus ater), Great (Carbonero Común / Parus major) and Long-tailed Tits (Mito / Aegithalos caudatus) and Cirl Bunting (Escribano Soteno / Emberiza cirlus).
We arrived back at Charca just in time to have a word with the Malaga lads who gave us some very good information about what they had seen during their morning visit. We made our way to the third of the hides on the anticlockwise route where we quickly picked up a cracking Purple Heron which sat nicely in the reed, several Sand Martins (Avión Zapador / Riparia riparia) which were feeding low over the water with large numbers of House Martins, Barn and Red-rumped Swallows, Pallid and Common Swifts. A couple of Glossy Ibis (Morito Común / Plegadis falcinellus) then flew in and started to feed in amongst the stands of Yellow Flag Iris’s and in the reeds to the side of us we heard both Iberian Water (Rana Común / Rana Perezi) and Stripeless Tree Frogs.
Juan then got a fleeting glimpse of the Baillon’s Crake (Pollueta chica / Porzana pusilla) Which we had been told was seen from the hide we were in or the one opposite which was where Juan had seen it. We packed all our bits up and relocated around to the other hide and quickly got some cracking views of this smart little bird (Spanish Lifer 1) but the dam thing was just to quick for me to get any good photographs but I did manage a poor record shot. After spending a hour plus watching this bird I decided that I wanted to go and have a try at seeing one of the Little Crake (Polluela bastarda / Porzana parva) seen earlier, so I made my way around past the main hide to the screens that run along side the long reedy pool on the western side of the reserve, I spent another hour or so here but other than getting views of another couple of Purple Herons and a Sedge Warbler I saw very little. I then made my way back around to Juan in the Baillon’s Hide, on the way I managed to get a shot of a rather tatty Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) which was one of two there but each time they settled a couple of Red Admirals (Vanessa atalanta) chased them back into the air.
I had a chat with Juan before going to the main hide from here I picked up Snipe (Agachadiza Común / Gallinago gallinago), Common Pochard (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina) which Juan had seen earlier and then out from the reeds right in front of the hide wandered a superb male Little Crake, it was in view for just a short time before it was flushed by a very territorial Common Moorhen and ran off into the vegetation to the right of the hide. I called Juan on the mobile and he soon joined me in the main Hide. Whist we waited for the bird to show again we picked up a couple of Common Moorhens with strange bill colourations which looked very similar to a certain bird recently on the net, the bill was not right for a full adult bird but slightly brighter than the bird in question. We also saw a fine Squacco Heron (Garcilla Cangrejera / Ardeola ralloides) and on the main island there were a couple of Grey (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea) and a single Purple Heron which had remained hidden until it flushed up and landed right in front of the hide on one of the tree stumps but as soon as I bought the Scope around it flew off, also there were a few Cattle and Little Egrets and 3 Glossy Ibis which made for a nice selection of heron type species. After some time the crake reappeared and showed very well but as with the Baillon’s it was quick moving and when it did eventually stay still it did it in the darkest corner of the reeds so the shots again are poor. I then went for a quick look at the Baillon’s which had swapped sides of the hide and was giving great views but was always behind plants or dead reeds. Juan later joined me again before we went back around to spend the last of the time in the main hide and even this late in the day the birds still had a surprise in the shape of a very tied looking Collared Pratincole (Canastera Común / Glareola pratincola) which did one circuit of the island before landing and trying to get some rest but one of the Cattle Egrets was not happy about this and started to chase it around but eventually left it alone to rest. The warden then arrived with his evening tour group; we continued watching the Little Crake whilst they were in the hide. We then made our way back around to the gate and left just after 20:00 for the drive home.
Photographs from the top: Purple Heron (Garza Imperial / Ardea purpurea), Pink Butterfly Orchid (Orquídea mariposa / Orchis papilionacea), Yellow Bee Orchid (Ophrys lutea), a view of the mountains, Glossy Ibis (Morito Común / Plegadis falcinellus), Baillon’s Crake (Pollueta chica / Porzana pusilla), odd Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinula Chloropus), Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus), Little Crake (Polluela bastarda / Porzana parva) and Collared Pratincole (Canastera Común / Glareola pratincola).