Friday, 20 December 2013

Huétor Fields, Moraleda Fields and the Cacín Valley, Granada Province.

Quality rather than quantity on a very cold but sunny day.

Common Crossbill (Piquituerto Común / Loxia curvirostra).

I was meeting Jackie and Neil, birders over from the UK at the hotel just off the motorway at 10:00 so I decided to check out the fields and find the wintering Little Bustards (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax). I had a drive along the Loja side of the site and scanned the fields where they usually hang out in the mornings but the area was being irrigated so the Bustards had moved but I did see good numbers of Golden Plovers (Chorlito Dorado Europeo / Pluvialis apricaria), Northern Lapwing (Avefria Europea / Vanellus vanellus), White Wagtails (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba), Crested Lark (Cogujada / Galerida cristata), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor) and Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops). I then had a look along the Rio Vilano and added Green Sandpiper (Andarrios Grande / Tringa ochropus), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricailla), Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus) and Cattle Egret (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis) to the list before dropping back down in to the town along the main road. Along here I made two stops, the first was to watch just a small group of about 40 or so Little Bustards which were settled on a thin stripe of Lucerne and the second was to check on the wintering Stone Curlews (Alcaraván Común / Burhinus oedicnemus).
I then headed up to the hotel three quarters an hour early so that I could get a coffee, I walked in ordered my drink and found that Jackie and Neil were already there having some breakfast so I joined them.
A short while later we made our way out on to the fields on the northern side of the town and started birding, at our first stop on the top of one of the railway bridges we picked up several Corn Buntings, White Wagtails, Spotless Starlings, plus Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Hoopoe, Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulgar / Falco tinnunculus), Feral Pigeon (Columba livia) and Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala). We moved on from here and went to check out the western stretch of the Rio Vilano, on the drive down the track we saw several Azure-winged Magpies (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer domesticus), Robin (Petirrojo Europeo / Erithacus rubecula), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinulas chloropus) and Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica). We parked the car and had a short walk down towards the railway line, on the way we had nice views of Meadow (Bisbita Pratense / Anthus pratensis) and Water Pipits (Bisbita Alpino / Anthus spinoletta), Cetti's Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti), Snipe (Agachadiza Común / Gallinago gallinago), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto), Cattle Egret and Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea). We turned around and walked back to the car, Jackie and I had brief views of a Bluethroat (Pechiazul / Luscinia svecica) before it disappeared into the reedbed. Once back at the car we checked the river at the eastern end and added Green Sandpiper, Zitting Cisticola (Buitrón / Cisticola juncidis), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus) and Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita). We then passed the bar and headed back into Huétor making a couple of stops on the way, the first was to check the fields where I had seen the Bustards earlier but as usual they had moved on so we did the same and spent some time watching the really good numbers of Stone Curlews nearer the town. Our last on the local patch was back where I had started the morning and missed the Bustards on the Loja side of the town, we dropped lucky as the birds I had seen earlier appeared to have moved to the far end of this field. We did not get great views but at least they were seen by us all. 
We moved on to the area of fields near Moraleda where we were hoping to connect with some of the small number of Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Ganga Ortega / Pterocles orientalis) but we were not in luck, it was very cold up on the higher part of the site which was usually the best place to see them, we did however add Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis), Song Thrush (Zorzal Común / Turdus philomelos) and Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus). 
We then dropped down out of the wind into the valley where we made a couple of stops in the woodland which runs along the river, again due to the cold birds were a bit thin on the ground but we picked up a nice male Common Crossbill (Piquituerto Común / Loxia curvirostra) which gave nice views in one of the Willow trees, Great (Carbonera Común / Parus major), Blue (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus) and several Long-tailed Tits (Mito / Aegithalos caudatus), Great Spotted Woodpecker (Pico Picapinos / Dendrocopos major), Grey Wagtail (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea) and Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricailla). 
We moved up the hill to the Embalse de Cacín where we stood and scanned the water whilst eating our lunch and soon had  Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), Common Pochard (Porrón Común / Aythya ferina), Eurasian Teal (Cerceta Común / Anas crecca), Great Cormorant (Cormorán Grande / Phalacrocroax carbo), Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra), Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis) and Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris) on the list. We again moved on further down the Valley to the Roman Bridge and the deeper part of the Gorge, along this stretch we picked up Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula), a nice male Blue-rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius) and an even nicer male Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura).
Time was moving on so we went back down into Cacín and took the road east towards Ventas del Huelma to look for Raptors which had so far given us the slip, on this road we did eventually catch up was a single Golden Eagle (Águila Real / Aquila chrysaetos) but nothing else so we made our way back to the hotel via the Sandgrouse fields but again we had no luck. During the day we did see three species of butterfly, Clouded Yellow (Colias Común / Colias corcea), Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) and Large White (Pieris brassicae).
Thanks Jackie and Neil for a cracking day and looking forward to tomorrows birding.

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