Friday 16 March 2012

The Cacín Valley, Granada Province.

A pleasant days birding and a Granada Province tick.

Paul and Frances.
I met Paul and Frances at the Cortijo de Tajar Hotel, they had travelled over yesterday from Aguadulce area near to Osuna for a days birding. We set off heading towards the Cacín Valley passing Moraleda and straight out on to the agricultural areas nearby, on the way we picked up a Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae) which was perched on some of the fly-tipped builders rubbish which seems to be one of the most out standing features of this part of Moraleda these days and a roosting Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua) which was perched on the remains of a half built swimming pool! Once out on the fields we soon added Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), Calandra Lark (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra), Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica), Rock Pigeon (Paloma Bravia / Columba livia), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor) and Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica) to the day list. 
We parked by the derelict Cortijo and scanned the fields and Almond groves nearby, several Great Spotted Cuckoo’s (Crialo Europeo / Clamator gladarius) could be heard then a couple of birds started to chase each other through the trees before one perched in the top of one amongst the blossom. A Black-winged Kite (Elanio Común / Elanus caeruleus) then flashed across the field and into the same grove of Almonds and back near the car a male Marsh Harrier (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus) flapped right across the site giving us much better views. Just as we were getting back into the car our second Little Owl flew up from inside the Cortijo and dropped down into the field nearby. 
Ophrys forestieri.
We drove down one of the other tracks on the site where we had flight views of a male Little Bustard (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax) which unfortunately dropped down behind a ridge out of view, also here we added Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina), Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis) and Crested Lark (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata). 
On the way to the crags below Moraleda we picked up a couple of Hoopoe’s (Abubilla / Upupa epops), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer Domesticus), House Martin (Avión Común / Delichon urbica) and a pair of Common Crossbills (Piquituerto Común / Loxia curvirostra) which came up off the road just Infront of us which gave nice close views of the male in his nice red/orange plumage. Along the crags there were good numbers of Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula), several Common Kestrels, males of both Blue Rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius) and Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura), calling Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris) and Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus).
Bath White (Blanqiverdosa / Pontia daplidice).
We then retraced our tracks back to El Turro and continued on down the Valley towards the Embalse de Cacín stopping on the way to look at some Ophrys forestieri which were growing on the roadside but in much reduced numbers due to the council scrapping the verges. 
Here we had brief views of 3 Short-toed Eagles (Culebrera Europeo / Circaetus gallicus) as they moved behind the trees, Coal Tit (Carbonero Garrapinos / Parus ater), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs) and Great Tit (Carbonero Común / Parus major). Our next stop was at the bridge over the Rio Cacín just below the dam, here we heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker (Pico Picapinos / Dendrocopos major) drumming and it was soon located hammering away on one of the telegraph pole along the river. We also saw and heard Cetti’s Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti), Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricapilla), Song Thrush (Zorzal Común / Turdus philomelos), Long-tailed Tit (Mito / Aegithalos caudatus), White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto) and Blue Tit (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus).
The water level was very low at the Embalse and bird numbers were well down, we did add Common Pochard (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina), Northern Shoveler (Cuchara Común / Anas clypeata), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinula Chloropus), Great Cormorant (Cormorán Grande / Phalacrocorax carbo), a displaying male Marsh Harrier, Common Swift (Vencejo Común / Apus apus) and Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea).
Small White (Artogeia rapae).
Considering the low level of the water I was quite surprised to find just singles of Green Sandpiper (Andarrios Grande / Tringa ochropus) and Common Redshank (Archibebe Común / Tringa totanus) on the mud. We continued further on down to the roman bridge that crosses the gorge, here Blue Tit (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus) was the only new bird for the day list. We continued a little further on along the gorge before stopping and having our lunch in the now quite warm sunshine. Paul then spotted a male Bonelli's Eagle (Aguila-azor Perdicera / Hieraaetus faciatus) coming in low along the cliffs, it showed very well before turning and heading back towards the bridge. Here we also had several Red-billed Chough’s (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), better views of a male Blue Rock Thrush and several species of Butterfly including Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera), Swallowtail (Papilio machaon), Bath White (Pontia daplidice), Cleopatra (Gonepteryx cleopatra), Clouded Yellow (Colias crocea) and Small White (Artogeia rapae).
Sawfly Orchid (Ophrys tenthredinifera).
After lunch we headed to the furthest point south we were going which bought us to the shores of Embalse de Bermejalis where we parked and looked for some Orchids in the Pine woods. We found more Ophrys forestieri, a single very smart plant of Sawfly Orchid (Ophrys tenthredinifera) and a nicely flowering spike of Giant Orchid (Himanthoglossum robertiana). As usual the lake was devoid of birds so we pushed on back north along the road to Ventas de Huelma and then we took the road back to Cacín from there. I had told Paul and Frances how good this road was for large raptors so I was very a little disappointed when we had done a drive along the first track that the biggest thing we had seen was a single Common Buzzard (Busardo Ratonero / Buteo buteo) and a Kestrel. We were back on the main road when I was pleased to pick up a big raptor off to our right and was even more pleased when I realised that it was an immature Spanish Imperial Eagle (Aguila Imperial Ibérica / Aguila adalberti) a new bird for my Granada Province list. The only down side was that the bird disappeared very quickly and by the time we reached the near by high point we could not relocate it. From this point we did add 3 Golden Eagles (Águila Real / Aquila chrysaetos) and 2 more Common Buzzards to the list. We then dropped back down to the Cacín Valley and had a second look at the Embalse where we picked up a small flock of at least 6 Eurasian Teal (Cerceta Común / Anas crecca), a female Marsh Harrier and the only Robin (Petirrrojo / Erithacus rubecula) of the day.
Giant Orchid (Himantoglossum robertiana).
Next we had a second bash at getting the Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Ganga Ortega / Pterocles orientalis) we had missed earlier but again we had no joy, we did see 2 Lesser Kestrels (Cernicola Primilla / Falco naumanni), Meadow Pipit (Bistita Común / Anthus pratensis) and I heard a Stone-curlew (Alcaraván Común / Burhinus oedicnemus) calling from some olives nearby. We drove around the site and exited via a different route and added a single Iberian Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis) and a male Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros).
We returned to the Hotel via Mesia where a pair of Little Ringed Plovers (Chorlitejo Chico / Charadrius dubius) were seen on the river and Huétor Fields where we added Western Cattle Egret (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis) and a pair of Stone-curlews but dipped on the wanted Iberian  Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cooki).

A total of 67 species of birds were seen during the day.

Tuesday 13 March 2012

Laguna Dulce, Laguna Salada, Ardales area and back to Laguna Dulce.

A day out with the Orchid experts.

Michael and Ian.
Today was a trip I had been looking forward to for a while, after hearing so much about and reading so many of his papers on the Ophrys fusca group I was at last going to meet Michael Lowe. 
Ian Phillips an Orchid expert from Malaga , Michael and I were meeting in Ardales but not until 10:30 so I thought that I would make the most of the day and start out a little early and have a look at Laguna Dulce on the way over. 
Just before I pulled into the slip road down to the hide I picked up the first nice find of the day a Black-winged Kite (Elanio Común / Elanus caeruleus) which was perched in a road side Almond tree preening. 
I parked and walked to the hide in the surrounding trees several Corn Buntings (Triguero / Emberiza calandra) were rattling out their song, along with a Cetti’s Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti), a couple of Common Chiffchaffs (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), several Serin’s (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis) and a nice Robin (Petirrrojo / Erithacus rubecula) which was perched on one of the posts holding up the screening singing for all he was worth. 
Garganey (Cerceta Carretona / Anas querquedula).
From the hide there were good numbers of birds to be scanned through, the commonest were probably Eurasian Coots (Focha Común / Fulica atra), Black-headed Gulls (Gaviota Riedora / Larus ridibundus) and Common Pochards (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina). 
Also plentiful were the smarter of the two Pochards the Red-crested (Pato Colorado / Netta rufina) variety, with around 50 birds off to the right of the pool and on the far shore, mixed in with these birds were at least 6 Tufted Ducks (Porrón Monudo / Aythya fuligula) 4 males and 2 females but as hard as I tried I could not find any of the 4 reported Ferruginous Ducks (Porrón Pardo / Aythya nyroca) seen a few day earlier. 
Ophrys Malacitana.
During the scan along the right side of the pool I picked up 2 male Garganey (Cerceta Carretona / Anas querquedula) and 2 female types but at the distance I was viewing them they could have been Eurasian Teal (Cerceta Común / Anas crecca) as there were a few about including a group of 6 cracking looking males. Continuing the scan I added 6 male Northern Pintail (Ánade Rabudo / Anas acuta), Northern Shoveler (Cuchara Común / Anas clypeata), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), White-headed Duck (Malvasia Cabeciblanca / Oxyura leucocephala), Little (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis), Great Crested (Somormujo Lavanco / Podiceps cristatus) and Black-necked Grebes (Zampullín Cuellinegro / Podiceps nigricollis), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinula Chloropus) and Great Cormorant (Cormorán Grande / Phalacrocorax carbo). 
Down the left hand side I then picked up a group of 4 Glossy Ibis (Morito Común / Plegadis falcinellus) which were preening before they pushed on probably over to wards the Donana and at least 7 Purple Swamp-hen (Calamón Común / Porphyrio porphyrio) a species I had not seen at the site before.
Ophrys subfusca.
On the margins just Infront of the hide a couple of pairs of Black-winged Stilts (Ciguenuela Común / Himantopus himantopus) were feeding along with singles of Little Ringed Plover (Chorlitejo Chico / Charadrius dubius) and Common Sandpiper (Andarrios Chico / Actitis hypoleucos) and on the far shore there was a flock of 13 Black-tailed Godwits (Aguja Colinegra / Limosa limosa) getting ready to move on further North (well they had gone by the time I got back in the afternoon).
A few Barn Swallows (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica), House Martins (Avión Común / Delichon urbica) and Common Swifts (Vencejo Común / Apus apus) were all in the air. Other birds seen included Snipe (Agachadiza Común / Gallinago gallinago), Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa), Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea), Crested (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata) and Calandra Larks (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra), House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer Domesticus), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula) and Lesser Black-backed Gull (Gaviota Somria / Larus fuscus).
Fan-lipped Orchid (Orchis collina).
I still had some time so I made my way around to Laguna Salada where I was pleasantly surprised to see that the water level was still quite good even after this very dry winter. 
On a small spit around 30 Greater Flamingo’s (Flamenco Común / Phoenicopterus ruber) were roosting while a few were out in the deeper water Feeding, along with lots of Black-Headed Gulls, Northern Shoveler, Common Pochard, Mallard, Eurasian Coot and Western Cattle Egret (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis). In the surrounding Tamarisks good numbers of Common Chiffchaffs were in full song as were the resident Cetti’s Warblers.
My next quick stop was at Observatorio Penarrubia just off the main road to Teba, Here I found a single Griffon Vulture (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus) sat on the cliffs and another which just drifted past, Red-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala) and on the Embalse a single Great Crested Grebe.
I then made my way to the meeting point in a bar (now there’s a surprise) just before the town of Ardales, I arrived first and had a coffee and then Michael and Ian came in and we sat and chatted for some time before heading out to a site near the Embalse del Conde de Guadalhorce. 
Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi).
On a slope in a fairly dense area of Pine woodland we quickly started to find some of the Ophrys fusca group of Orchids we had come to look for, the first was Ophrys Malacitana which was quickly followed by Ophrys subfusca and a couple of Fan-lipped Orchids (Orchis collina). Whilst we walked around we saw a couple of Green Hairstreaks (Callophrys rubi), Large (Pieris brassicae) and Small White (Artogeia rapae), Spanish Festoon (Zerynthia rumina) and Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera).
We next went back to Ardales and out on the road towards El Burgo where on a roadside bank we came across a colony of the other Orchid we were looking for Somber-bee Orchid (Ophrys fusca subsp fusca), along with Wide-leaved Iris (Iris planifolia), Iberis pectinata, Field Marigold (Calendula arvensis), Common Stork's-bill (Erodium cicutarium) and White Mignonette (Reseda Alba). 
We continued on along this road and turned towards Casarabonela but stopped at the highest point along this road and had a short walk in the pine woods finding very little before having a drive around the tracks on the mountain opposite. 
Somber-bee Orchid (Ophrys fusca subsp fusca).
Along here we found no Orchids mainly due to the hard frosts and lack of rain but we did see Common Crossbill (Piquituerto Común / Loxia curvirostra), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia), Great Tit (Carbonero Común / Parus major), another Green Hairstreak, several Cleopatra’s (Cleopatra / Gonepteryx cleopatra) and a couple of plants of Narcissus cantabricus.
I then said goodbye to Ian and Michael and headed back to Ardales and then called back in at Laguna Dulce where new species for the day included a calling Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua), Common Buzzard (Busardo Ratonero / Buteo buteo) and a flock of around 20 Little Bustards (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax) which flew over the fields to the rear of the laguna.

The day lists ended on, 82 species of bird and 4 species of Orchid.