Monday, 15 April 2013

The Cacín Valley, Granada Province.

Wildlife Guiding in the Cacín Valley.

I arrived at today's meeting point early and while there I saw Crested Lark (Cogujada / Galerida cristata), House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer domesticus), Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica), White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina), Red-rumped Swallow (Golondrina Dáurica / Hirudo daurica), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua), Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica), Common Swift (Vencejo Común / Apus apus), House Martin (Avión Común / Delichon urbica), Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula) and a rather surprising Black-winged Stilt (Ciguenela Común / Himantopus himantopus) which flew over nearby fields. Peter and Nick arrived and we got straight on with the days birding, we were sooner up on the nearby agricultural areas. On the way we stopped in the urbanisation where we spent some time watching a group of cracking Red-rumped Swallows which were entering a small porch on one of the houses that was a little rundown. Also in the same area we picked up the first of many Thekla Larks (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Collared Dove, Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus) and a female Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala). We were soon out in the fields and started to pick up good numbers of Corn Buntings and then a Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis) a new bird for both Peter and Nick was seen perched in a nearby Almond tree and this was followed by a good fly view of a Stone Curlew (Alcaraván Común / Burhinus oedicnemus). We then went out on the tracks into the area where we were searching for some Steppe species, we started off on the right hand track. We parked and searched around a ravine area about 300 meters along, here we soon located a couple of Mirror Orchids (Ophrys speculum subsp speculum), Field marigold (Calendula arvensis), Southern Knapweed (Centaurea pullata ssp pullata), Pink Med Catchfly (Silene colorata), White Mignonette (Reseda Alba), Common Grape Hyacinth (Muscari neglectum), Soft Stork's-bill (Erodium malacoides), Mallow-leaved Bindweed (Convolvulus althaeoides), Purple Viper's Bugloss (Echium plantagineum) and Scentless Mayweed (Matricaria perforata). Bird wise we added a singing Calandra Lark (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra), Short-toed Lark (Terrera Común / Calandrella brachydactyla) and more Thekla Larks singing high over the Almond groves. We then moved on up to the Cortijo on the ridge top where there were several species of Butterfly coming to feed on the Eruca (Eruca sativa), they included Swallowtail (Papilio machaon), Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera), Bath White  (Blanqiverdosa / Pontia daplidice), Large White (Pieris brassicae), Small White (Artogeia rapae) and Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta). We then had a walk down the hill towards the Solar panel area, on the way we heard a Little Bustard (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax) calling, we eventually located a cracking male bird and as usual it was much further away that we first thought. Whilst we were watching this bird a flock of 5 Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Ganga Ortega / Pterocles orientalis) flew across over the tops of the Almond groves, these were soon followed by another 4 birds, all 9 birds gave us some excellent views. While we were following the Sandgrouse we picked up a Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea) flapping through the site quite high. We moved on around to the far side of the site and parked up in the Almond grove and had a walk. On the way up we saw another couple of Stone Curlews and amongst the wild flowers in between the trees we saw several Clouded Yellows (Colias Común / Colias corcea), Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus F lyllus), Common Blue (Icaro (Dos Puntos) / Polyommatus icarus) and several Silver Y Moths (Autographa gamma). On the road as we were leaving we found a dead Ladder Snake (Culebra de Escalera / Etaphe scalaris) and later in the day we found a squashed Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) on the road near to Vantas de Huelma.
We then headed off the fields and made our way down into the valley through the village of El Turro and then south along the road following the river thought the Pine woods. We made a stop amongst the Pines and soon had Blue (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus), Great (Carbonera Común / Parus major), Coal (Carbonero Garrapinos / Parus ater) and Long-tailed Tits (Mito / Aegithalos caudatus), Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes), Nightingale (Ruisenor Común / Luscinia megarhynchos), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Common Crossbill (Piquituerto Común / Loxia curvirostra) and a sculking Melodious Warbler (Zarcero Común / Hippolais polyglotta). We then moved on a short way down the river to the bridge over the Rio Cacín, straight away we picked up a male Marsh Harrier (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus) over the nearby ridge, this was soon joined by both Golden (Águila Real / Aquila chrysaetos) and Short-toed Eagles (Culebrera Europeo / Circaetus gallicus) all soaring close together and a little later we had a second Golden join the first and watch them both soar together.. In the trees and reeds along the river we saw another much more showy Melodious Warbler, Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricailla), Reed Warbler (Carricero Común / Acrocephalus scrpaceus) and European Bee-eater (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster). I then scanned the crags off down stream and picked up a roosting Eagle Owl (Buho Real / Bubo bubo) and over head there were good numbers of both Common (Vencejo Común / Apus apus) and Pallid Swifts (Vencejo Pálido /Apus pallidus). We moved on along to the Embalse de Cacín and scanned the lake which was still very low and quite a large areas of mud were showing. On the water we saw small numbers of Common Pochard (Porrón Común / Aythya ferina), a single male Red-crested Pochard (Pato Colorado / Netta rufina), a pair of Northern Shovelers (Pato Cuchara / Anas clypeata), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), Common Moorhens (Gallineta Común / Gallinulas chloropus) and a pair of Great Crested Grebes (Somormujo Lavanco / Podiceps cristatus). On the mud we also recorded 2 Green (Andarrios Grande / Tringa ochropus) and 6 Common Sandpipers (Andarrios Chico / Actitis hypoleucos) and a single Common Redshank (Archibebe Común / Tringa totanus). In the air we watched masses of Swifts, including at least 4 Alpine Swifts (Vencejo Real / Apus melba). We then moved on south down the valley where we turned off towards Cacín village and we parked on the right and had a walked along the river, new birds seen here included Great Spotted Woodpecker (Pico Picapinos / Dendrocopos major), Wryneck (Torcecuello / Jynx torquilla), Grey Wagtail (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea) and Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus). Again we continued on to a point over the crags further south where we were going to have our lunch but almost straight away we had a stunning  Bonelli's Eagle (Aguila-azor / Hieraetus faciatus) soaring in front of us giving incredible views. While we had our food we also added Crag Martins (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris), Red-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia), Blue-rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius) and Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura) plus a calling but unseen Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia). Here I also saw Moroccan Orange-tip (Anthocharis belia), Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui), Cleopatra (Cleopatra / Gonepteryx cleopatra) and Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas). We then started to retrace our steps back North calling in at the Roman bridge where we had better but still not good views of Rock Sparrows (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia). We returned to Cacín and went up through the village and onwards onto the El Temple area above but the first half of the drive produced nothing new but on the second half we added Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator), Lesser Kestrel (Cernicola Primilla / Falco naumanni), Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops), another Golden Eagle and Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa)which was only heard. We then stopped at a road side spot and took a very quick look at a Booted Eagle (Aguililla Calzada / Hieraaetus pennatus) sat in a poplar tree and below in the flooded trenches there were some very loud Iberian Water Frogs (Rana Común / Rana Perezi) calling / croaking. We called in at a bar in Vantas de Huelma for some extra water and then took a track across country to Castillo de Tajarja, on the way we had some nice views of some more Lesser Kestrels, another nice male Little Bustard which was calling from a roadside field and whilst we were watching this bird we heard a Great Spotted Cuckoo (Crialo Europeo / Clamator gladarius) calling from a nearby Olive grove. We then went and had a walk around the trees but we could not locate the Cuckoo but we did get better views of the Little Bustard we had been watching earlier. We continued on towards the town and then on back passed the mornings starting point and back to the meeting point where Peter and Nick collected their car and then followed me to Laguna / Balsa de Regidor where we saw several more Common Pochards, Northern Shoveler, Mallard and on the logs around the side hundreds of Stripe-necked Terrapin's (Mauremys leprosa). I then said goodbye to Peter and Nick but I was just a short one as we were meeting up again on Wednesday on the Andalucian Bird Society meeting on Sierra de Loja.
Thanks for a good days birding and for supporting Granada Wildlife.
Photographs from the top: Peter and Nick, Little Bustard (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax), European Bee-eater (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra) and Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator).

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