A day tour in the valley with Geoff and Sue Tucker from the UK.
We started out from Sue and Geoff's accommodation just to the North of Ventorros de San Jose and dropped down towards Huétor Tajár, on the way we had our first of many Azure-winged Magpies (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus), along with Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto) and Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae).
We went down passed Realenga de Agicampe and out onto the fields below where we added Common Swift (Vencejo Común / Apus apus), Tree Sparrow (Gorrión Molinero / Passer montanus), Turtle Dove (Tórtola Europea / Streptopelia turtur), Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer domesticus) and Crested Lark (Cogujada / Galerida cristata).
From here we went out on to the Agricultural area near Moraleda, on the way in to the site we picked up a very nice Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis) which flew along the field edge disappeared by the time we stopped and got out of the car. Whilst we were looking for this bird we had nice views of a 1st summer male Montagu's Harrier (Aguilucho Cenizo / Circus pygargus), close flight views of a Stone Curlew (Alcaraván Común / Burhinus oedicnemus) and a singing Short-toed Lark (Terrera Común / Calandrella brachydactyla). Once we were out on the fields we soon realized that an awful lot of muck had had been spread on the fields and that 3/4 of the worlds population of flies had come to take advantage which made birding quite unpleasent at times. How ever we quickly located a flock of 9 Little Bustards (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax), Calandra Lark (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra), Zitting Cisticola (Buitrón / Cisticola juncidis), Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua) and several more Short-toed Larks.
We continued on through the site to a spot where we watched a pair of beautiful Rollers (Carraca / Coracias garrulus) which were nesting in a hole in a dead tree. In the same area we saw another pair of Montagu's Harrier's and a male Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulgar / Falco tinnunculus) which kept buzzing the adult Rollers. In this area we also had views of Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula), Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus), Common Swift, European Bee-eater (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster), Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina) and Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra). We then moved along side the nearby solar panel on our way back up to the old cortijo hoping for the elusive Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Ganga Ortega / Pterocles orientalis) to put in a visit but we did not get lucky so we retraced our tracks back down towards the Panel farms. On the way we saw a couple of immature Great Spotted Cuckoo's (Crialo Europeo / Clamator gladarius) which were sat under a small Olive tree, we had great views but all to quickly they moved further down the row of trees where we continued to watch them. We later moved back along the panels where we had good views of a family party of Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica) and a couple more Little Owls which were sat out on rock piles. From here we drove down into El Turro seeing several more Crested Larks, Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata) and Red-rumped Swallow (Golondrina Dáurica / Hirudo daurica) which were perched on the wires.
We drove down the valley and stopped near the bridge across the Rio Cacín and walked along the track towards the dam of the Embalse de Cacín. Straight away we had good views of both Common and Pallid Swift (Vencejo Pálido /Apus pallidus) flying together which gave us a good chance for comparison and we also saw two or three Alpine Swifts (Vencejo Real / Apus melba) mixed in with the hundred or so birds. A little further on we saw our first Melodious Warbler (Zarcero Común / Hippolais polyglotta), Reed Warbler (Carricero Común / Acrocephalus scrpaceus) and Golden Orioles (Oropéndola / Oriolus oriolus) of the day. Once we reached the large White Willow where the track splits we scanned through the trees and here I saw and heard a male Orphean Warbler (Curruca Mirlano / Sylvia hortensis) but both Sue and Geoff missed this one but we all heard but did not see a calling Wryneck (Torcecuello / Jynx torquilla). Up near the dam we saw another pair of Golden Orioles, Jay (Arrendajo / Garrulus glandarius), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Blue (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus), Coal (Carbonero Garrapinos / Parus ater), Blackcap(Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricailla), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Robin (Petirrojo Europeo / Erithacus rubecula) and House Martin (Avión Común / Delichon urbica). In the river we could hear Iberian Water Frogs (Rana Común / Rana Perezi) and the reeds there were a few Copper Demoiselle (Calopteryx haemorrhoidalis) Dragonflies and a single Blue / Common Emperor (Anax imperator). Butterflies were also seen during this part of the trip and they included Bath White (Blanqiverdosa / Pontia daplidice), Cardinal Fritillary (argynnis Pandora), Clouded Yellow (Colias Común / Colias corcea), Iberian Marbled White (Melanargia lachesis), Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas), Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus F lyllus) and Small White (Artogeia rapae).
We walked back down to the car and just as we reached the vehicle we picked up a stunning Golden Eagle (Águila Real / Aquila chrysaetos) which gave us pectacular viewshere and down by the dam which was our next stop. The lake was quite quiet but we did find small numbers of Common Pochards (Porrón Común / Aythya ferina), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinulas chloropus) and a Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea) which flew from the shallows and landed on the far bank. On the muddy margins we found a couple of returning Green Sandpipers (Andarrios Grande / Tringa ochropus), a pair of Little Ringed Plover (Chorlitejo Chico / Charadrius dubius) and out on the dead bushes in the centre of the lake a single White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba). On the far side of the lake we could see several Stripe-necked Terrapins (Mauremys leprosa) basking on a log and in the road we saw a Large Psammodromus (Lagartija colilarga / Psammodromus algirus) run for cover.
We moved on further south along the valley and called in at the bar in Cacín where we got some lunch which we took away with us. We drove on up the hill on the road towards Ventas de Huelma where we had brief views of a Booted Eagle (Aguililla Calzada / Hieraaetus pennatus) as it flew of one of the Pylons and further along the road we had a Common Buzzard (Busardo Ratonero / Buteo buteo). We turned off the road and headed down one of the dirt tracks but after a short way we had to make our first stop to view a Short-toed Eagle (Culebrera Europeo / Circaetus gallicus) which was sat on a pylon but was hard to make out as the day was wareing on and the heat haze was building up. At the end of the track we parked up and scanned the ridges seeing another pale phase Booted Eagle, some distant Lesser Kestrels (Cernicola Primilla / Falco naumanni) and we could also hear a distant Little Bustard which remained out of sight. From here we retraced our way back down to Cacín and then headed back north along the valley to the crags just below Moraleda where we picked up a few more European Bee-eaters, Jackdaws, Common Kestrels and Crag Martins (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris) the only new species for day list. From here we headed back in towards Ventorros.