Saturday 30 March 2013

Moraleda and the Cacín Valley, Granada Province.

A new car boot, some birding and good food.

Swallowtail (Papilio machaon).
Jayne and I started off by going to the new car boot sale just off the A92 at exit 212 but it was somewhat disappointing but hopefully it will get better once the dam rain stops. Later we headed out to the far side of Moraleda where we did a bit of a drive around the tracks that cross a large area of cereal crop fields mixed in with a few Olive and Almond groves. The first stop was by a ruin of an old Cortijo which sites nicely on a high point in the fields which gives a good vantage point, several species of butterfly were congregating around this hill including several Swallowtails (Papilio machaon), Wall Browns (Lasiommata megera), Small (Artogeia rapae), Large (Pieris brassicae), Bath (Blanqiverdosa / Pontia daplidice) and a couple of Green-striped Whites (Euchloe belemia) this was the first time I had seen this species in Granada Province so I was very happy with this find.
Provence Hairstreak (Tomares ballus).
After trying and failing to get any shots of the butterflies except for the Swallowtails I had a good scan around the fields picking up singing Calandra (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra), Crested (Cogujada / Galerida cristata) and Thekla Larks (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), along with a couple of Short-toed Larks (Terrera Común / Calandrella brachydactyla) which took me ages to track down as they were singing from a great hieght. Good numbers of both Barn Swallows (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica) and House Martins (Avión Común / Delichon urbica) skimming low over the crops. We then moved on around the site passing a large area of solar panels until we reached a large area of Almond trees, on the way around we had good views of both Iberian Grey (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis) and Woodchat Shrikes (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator), Stone Curlew (Alcaraván Común / Burhinus oedicnemus), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor) and a cracking Iberian Green Woodpecker (Pito Real / Picus sharpei).
Small White (Artogeia rapae).
I parked in the almonds and went for a walk whilst Jayne got stuck in to her book, I was soon adding butterflies to the list including Provence Hairstreak (Tomares ballus), Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas), Cleopatra (Cleopatra / Gonepteryx cleopatra), Clouded Yellow (Colias Común / Colias corcea), Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) and a cracking male Provence Orange-tip (Anthocharis euphenodes). Birds in the plantation included a few very noisy Great Spotted Cuckoo's (Crialo Europeo / Clamator gladarius), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), a fine male Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula) and males of both Orphean (Curruca Mirlano / Sylvia hortensis) and Spectacled Warblers (Curruca Tomillera / Sylvia conspicillata).
View from one of the tracks.
We then moved on back to the road before heading off toward Castillo de Tajarja where we got on to another track which took us across country to Ventas de Huelma, on the way along here we had good views of another Great Spotted Cuckoo which flew across the track, Lesser Kestrel (Cernicola Primilla / Falco naumanni), a female Montagu's Harrier (Aguilucho Cenizo / Circus pygargus), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba) and a really bright male Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata). Our next track took us out into an area where I have on a couple of occaions seen a huge immature Spanish Imperial Eagle (Aguila Imperial Ibérica / Aguila adalberti), the area is well known as a site where young birds of this species and Golden Eagle (Águila Real / Aquila chrysaetos) hang around for long periods before heading off to set up there own territories.
Ophrys forestieri.
On this visit I just managed a singleton of the latter species but this was a fine sight anyway. In the same area we saw a rhaspberrying male Little Bustard (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax) displaying a nearby crop field, several singing Calandra Larks, more Lesser Kestrels and a very pale Short-toed Eagle (Culebrera Europeo / Circaetus gallicus) which drifted along a distant ridge. We retraced or steps back to the road and went into Ventas de Huelma for some Lunch at Bar / Restaurant Bernardo's on the main cross roads in the town. We had a very nice meal which was only spoilt by several of the Spanish clients smoking in the bar which as far as I am aware is still illigal in Andalucia????
Anyway after lunch we made our way along the road towards Cacín, on the way I spotted a very large nest up in a large Poplar tree and just as we came level with it a beautiful pale phase Booted Eagle (Aguililla Calzada / Hieraaetus pennatus) flew in and landed on it with some material to do some DIY. Other species along here and at the Rio Cacín bridge included Blue Tit (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus), Cetti's Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti), Common Buzzard (Busardo Ratonero / Buteo buteo), Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops), Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula), Jay (Arrendajo / Garrulus glandarius), Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa) and a largish Ocellated Lizard (Lacerta lepida) which dived across the road.
Ophrys forestieri.
Once we were through Cacín we turned North along the Valley up towards Embalse de Cacín, on the way we saw a Bonelli's Eagle (Aguila-azor / Hieraetus faciatus) soaring over the pine covered ridge off to our right. On the lake there were just a few wildfowl including a dozen or so male Common Pochards (Porrón Común / Aythya ferina) and the odd Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos) which were joined by a few Common Moorhens (Gallineta Común / Gallinulas chloropus) and a single summer plumaged Black-necked Grebe (Zampullín Cullinegro / Podiceps nigricollis) but the biggest surprise was the total absence of Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra). Other species seen nearby included Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricailla), Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita), a fine male Marsh Harrier (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus), Sparrowhawk (Gavilán Común / Accipiter nisus) and several Iberian  Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cooki) in the pines on the far bank. We moved on and drove up the valley to El Turro, on the way a male Goshawk (Azor Común / Accipitor gentillis) flew low along the road below the hieght of the Pines for around 300 metres before it cut out to the left by the disused substation, we parked and I had some super views of this bird as it dispalyed and wing clapped out over the valley.
Ophrys forestieri.
Here we also saw and heard Coal (Carbonero Garrapinos / Parus ater) and Great Tits (Carbonera Común / Parus major), Common Crossbill (Piquituerto Común / Loxia curvirostra), Nightingale (Ruisenor Común / Luscinia megarhynchos) and Woodlark (Totovia / Lullula arborea) and on both verges there were a couple of hundred spikes of Ophrys forestieri in good condition still. We continued on along the road and then up through El Turro back to Moraleda and on to home.

Wednesday 27 March 2013

Loja and Huétor Fields, Granada Province.

Business and pleasure.

Blue-headed (Yellow) Wagtail (Lavandera Boyera / Motacilla flava flava).
Jayne and I headed off into Loja first thing this morning, Jayne had a wonder around the shops whilst I went to see the accountant. On my walk up to his office I did see my first Common Swift (Vencejo Común / Apus apus) of the year, along with loads of House Martins (Avión Común / Delichon urbica) and a few Barn Swallows (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica).
After the meeting I met up with Jayne and we headed back home for some lunch, later I went down onto the fields north of Huétor Tájar for a couple of hours birding. On the way down I saw at least 5 Woodchat Shrikes (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator) sat up on the wires or in road side bushes and a pair of Little Owls (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua) sat out on a roof top getting some sun. My first stop was along side the Arroyo del Vilano where there were loads of Barn Swallows, House Martins and a few Red-rumped Swallow (Golondrina Dáurica / Hirudo daurica).
On the sides of the Arroyo several Crested Larks (Cogujada / Galerida cristata) were chasing each other around and both White (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba) and Grey Wagtails (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea) were feeding on the exposed shingle bars. I then continued on to the other side of the road bridge and back on to the track along the Arroyo again a little further down stream, from here I could scan the flooded fields and soon picked up a few remaining waders. These included Green Sandpiper (Andarrios Grande / Tringa ochropus), Little Ringed Plover (Chorlitejo Chico / Charadrius dubius) and a year tick in the form of a Wood Sandpiper (Andarrios Bastardo / Tringa glareola).
Western Yellow Wagtail (Lavandera Boyera / Motacilla flava flavissima).
After seraching the floods I turned around and headed back towards the road, on the way I had the second year tick of the afternoon, this time it was a fine male Common Redstart (Colirroja Real / Phoenicurus phoenicurus), in the same area I had Iberian  Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cooki) Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Meadow Pipit (Bisbita Pratense / Anthus pratensis) and Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula). My next stop was on the railway bridge looking over the floods from the other side, from here I added just Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos) and Snipe (Agachadiza Común / Gallingao gallinago) to the list before continuing on along this track towards the Mesia road. I spent quite a while sat at the side of a large puddle filled field of Lucerne where there was a flock of around 40 Western Cattle Egrets (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis), a couple of Water Pipits (Bisbita Alpino / Anthus spinoletta) and loads of Spanish (Yellow) Wagtails (Lavandera Boyera / Motacilla flava iberiae) along with good numers of both Blue-headed (Lavandera Boyera / Motacilla flava flava) and Western Yellow Wagtail (Lavandera Boyera / Motacilla flava flavissima) the UK sub-species.
Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops).
In the same area I saw Willow Warbler (Mosquitero Musical / Phylloscopus trochillus), Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita), several passage Sand Martins (Avión Zapador / Riparia riparia), Zitting Cisticola (Buitrón / Cisticola juncidis), Tree Sparrow (Gorrión Molinero / Passer montanus) and my first singing Nightingale (Ruisenor Común / Luscinia megarhynchos) of the spring. I then drove back towards the house via the far fields seeing and photographing a very nice Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops) on the way, on the far fields I was very pleased to see that there was still a small flock of just nine Little Bustards (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax) still hanging around. There was a cracking male in the flock and eight female types, also on the fields were a couple of roosting Stone Curlews (Alcaraván Común / Burhinus oedicnemus) and a large flock of Spotless Starlings (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor). On the way back up to the house I saw and heard a singing male Cirl Bunting (Escribano Soteno / Emberiza cirlus) and as I got out of the car a Woodlark (Totovia / Lullula arborea) flew over the house.

Monday 25 March 2013

Home near Huétor Tajar, Granada Province, Spain.

4 Raptors in an hour from the garden.

I was stood out side the house talking to our neighbours Christine and John when a male Montagu's Harrier (Aguilucho Cenizo / Circus pygargus) flew over, it was followed within a minute ot two by a Short-toed Eagle (Culebrera Europeo / Circaetus gallicus). A little later I was on the terrace and an immature Golden Eagle (Águila Real / Aquila chrysaetos) flew over heading towards Hacho and a short time later a Bonelli's Eagle (Aguila-azor / Hieraetus faciatus) flew in the same direction. Not bad for a couple of hours around the house.