Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Cacín Valley, Granada Province.

A search for Red-knobbed Coots.

I had arranged to meet up with Juan Perez at the Embalse de Cacín during the afternoon to try and find some of the Red-knobbed Coots (Focha Moruna / Fulca cristata) that were seen by fellow local birders Jorge Garzón and Juanfra Jiménez. On the way I stopped and checked the service road along the A92 near Moraleda where I had seen a Black-winged Kite (Elanio Común / Elanus caeruleus) last Saturday whilst returning home from the RAM seabird survey. I drove along the southern side of the motorway and soon found a cracking adult Kite sat on almost the same telegraph post it had been on on Saturday, as I approached in the car the bird flew and I thought that it was a bit flighty and I had flushed it but it suddenly dropped down into the lucerne field and came back to the same post with a dead Meadow Pipit (Bistita Común / Anthus pratensis) which it sat and devoured over the next ten minutes giving me some amazing views. After the treat of watching this bird for a while I left it there and carried on to the agricultural areas near to Morelada looking for the two Common Cranes (Grulla Común / Grus grus) Jorge and Juanfra had seen on the same day as they found the Coots, I did not find any Cranes but i did see a male Hen Harrier (Aguilucho Pálido / Circus cyaneus), Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis), a male Merlin (Esmerejón / Falco columbarius), Common Buzzard (Busardo Ratonero / Buteo buteo), Calandra (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra), Crested (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata), Thekla (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae) and Skylark (Alondra Común / Alauda arvensis), Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua) and Cirl Bunting (Escribano Soteno / Emberiza cirlus). I then pushed on down to the Embalse where I was to met up with Juan, on the way I saw a male Blue Rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius) sat on the roof of an old ruin, Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura) and Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros) on roadside rock piles and lots of Corn Buntings (Triguero / Emberiza calandra) which flew up from the Almond plantations on my way down into El Turro. On the way from El Turro down to the lake several species were either seen or heard in the pines that line the route, these included Common Crossbill (Piquituerto Común / Loxia curvirostra), Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus), Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia) and  Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla). I made a quick stop at the bridge just below the dam over the Rio Cacín, here I heard a Water Rail (Rascón Europeo / Rallus aquaticus) and saw Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricapilla), Cetti’s Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti), Coal (Carbonero Garrapinos / Parus ater), Blue  (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus) and Long-tailed Tits (Mito / Aegithalos caudatus), Robin (Petirrrojo / Erithacus rubecula), Great Spotted Woodpecker (Pico Picapinos / Dendrocopos major), Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita) and Grey Wagtail (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea). I then moved on down to the side of the lake and started to check out the Coots that I could see but they were all Eurasian (Focha Común / Fulica atra), there were also good numbers of Northern Shoveler (Cuchara Común / Anas clypeata), Common Pochard (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinula Chloropus), 3x Great Cormorant (Cormorán Grande / Phalacrocorax carbo) and a single Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea). In the pine woodlands on the far shore several Jays (Arrendajo / Garrulus glandarius) and a flock of  Azure-winged Magpies (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus) were making plenty of noise whilst an immature  Golden Eagle (Águila Real / Aquilachrysaetos) was flapping low over the ridge behind me hunting Rabbits. Other species seen before Juan arrived included White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Common Sandpiper (Andarrios Chico / Actitis hypoleucos), Green Sandpiper (Andarrios Grande / Tringa ochropus) and Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula). Juan then arrived and we rescanned all the Coot that were visible but found nothing new, so we moved a few hundred meters up the lake towards the dam where we could get onto some higher ground and look down the full length of the near shore. Once at the second spot Juan had picked up the Red-knobbed Coot which was waring the white neck collar but it was quite some distance away back along the shore near where we had been standing originally but had been hidden by a largish reedbed. From up here we also saw Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis), Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris), Great Tit (Carbonero Común / Parus major), Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus) and a couple of Rock Sparrows (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia) which flew when I went to have a look at the furthest point near the dam. After some time scanning the lake and finding no more Coots we decided to see if we could get nearer the bird we had seen to try and read the number on the neck collar. We arrived and could not find the bird but after a few minutes it swam out from the reeds just a few meters away from where we were stood up on the bank and gave us nice views which were plenty good enough to read the number and see the nice bluish bill and raised rear end. From this point the only new species see was a distant Sparrowhawk (Gavilán Común / Accipiter nisus). I then headed home and Juan went off towards Granada doing some birding on the way. 
Later Juan got some information back from the people running a reintroduction project for the Coots in Donnana to say that the bird we had seen was an immature male that had been released early last year.
Photographs from the top: 3x Black-winged Kite (Elanio Común / Elanus caeruleus) and 2x Red-knobbed Coot (Focha Moruna / Fulca cristata).

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