Friday, 7 March 2014

Huetor Fields and Cacín Valley, Granada Province.

A days birding with Steve and Elena Powell.

I met up with Steve and Elena at the Cortijo de Tajar hoteljust off the A92 near Huétor Tajar and we had a quick coffee before making our way out onto the nearby fields. Our first stop was on the track out to Mesia where a week or so earlier I had seen a single Jack Snipe (Agachadiza Chica / Lymnocriptes minimus) in a trackside ditch. On the way we checked a couple of other fields and soon started the list off with Yellow Wagtail (Lavandera Boyera / Motacilla flava iberiae), Cattle Egret (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis) and a calling flight of 7 Golden Plover (Chorlito Dorado Europeo / Pluvialis apricaria). When we reached the first spot we checked the ditch before having a walk along a narrow irrigation channel which crossed the fields, as soon as we started off we had a couple of Snipe (Agachadiza Común / Gallinago gallinago) go up along with Green Sandpiper (Andarrios Grande / Tringa ochropus), Crested (Cogujada / Galerida cristata) and Skylarks (Alondra Común / Alauda arvensis), Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus) and Zitting Cisticola (Buitrón / Cisticola juncidis). At about the half way point we flushed up the first Jack Snipe which dropped in to the crop fields a short distance off to our right and then a few meters further on a second bird went up and flew around behind us and away to the other side of the track. Pleased with our sightings we retraced our steps to the track where we had a chat with one of the local farmers and explained to him what we were up to and that we were only hunting with our camera's. I was pleased that he took the time to find out what we were doing and that he seemed a little bit interested in the birds as well. Anyway we then checked out the damp fields on the opposite side of the track where we saw a female Bluethroat (Pechiazul / Luscinia svecica), Meadow Pipit (Bisbita Pratense / Anthus pratensis), Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer domesticus), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala) and another fine male Yellow Wagtail.
We returned to the car and made our way through Mesia and on to the service road along side the A92 heading for Moraleda, along here we scanned Balsa de Rigedor and picked up Common Pochard (Porrón Común / Aythya ferina), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis), Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinulas chloropus) and on the nearby wire both Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto) and Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica).
From here we made our way up to the agricultural area near to Moraleda where we searched the fields from several of the farmer tracks, on the way in we picked up a Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua), Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops) and a flying Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis). Once out on the fields we could hear Calandra (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra) and Crested Larks (Cogujada / Galerida cristata) singing all around us along with Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulgar / Falco tinnunculus), Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra) and House Martin (Avión Común / Delichon urbica). Near the large ruin of an old Cortijo we saw two Swallowtails (Papilio machaon) and several Bath Whites (Blanqiverdosa / Pontia daplidice).
We drove down to the area around the Solar Panels and Elena picked up a nice male Little Bustard (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax) walking across a crop fields nearby and then we heard and saw (breifly) a cracking adult Great Spotted Cuckoo (Crialo Europeo / Clamator gladarius). Continuing on we checked out the Almond groves and as things were warming up even more butterflies were on the move, in this area we added Clouded Yellow (Colias Común / Colias corcea), a single Western Dappled White (Euchloe crameri), Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) and Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera). Again we moved on around the site adding Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus), Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula), Feral Pigeon (Columba livia) and both Common (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita) and Iberian Chiffchaffs (Mosquitero Ibérico / Phylloscopus brehmii). Our last stop at this site was in a large Almond plantation where we were looking for and found several Province Hairstreaks (Cardenillo / Tomares ballus) a cracking quick flying difficult to photograph insect which was a new species for Steve and he got some very nice shots as well. In the same area we also had a second Little Bustard and 3 Stone Curlews (Alcaraván Común / Burhinus oedicnemus).
From here we dropped down in to the valley and had our lunch at the small bar in El Turro before pushing on down the Valley to the bridge across the river where we walked along the river up to the dam, on the way we saw several spikes of Ophrys forestieri on the roadside in the pines. New species at the bridge included Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris), Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricailla), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Blue (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus) and Great  Tits (Carbonera Común / Parus major), Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla) heard only and Song Thrush (Zorzal Común / Turdus philomelos). We continued on again but just as far as the small Embalse a KM or so further along the road, here we saw much the same species as on the small pool earlier but new species included Northern Shoveler (Pato Cuchara / Anas clypeata), Eurasian Teal (Cerceta Común / Anas crecca), a pair of Marsh Harriers (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus), Azure-winged Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus), Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea) and a calling but unseen Green Woodpecker (Pito Real / Picus viridis). 
Our final stops in the valley were south of the village of Cacín, the first was in the gorge where we had really nice views of a female Bonelli's Eagle (Aguila-azor / Hieraetus faciatus), Red-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes) and heard Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia). On our way back North we stopped at the Roman bridge and soon had a male Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura) on the list along with a nice male Cleopatra (Cleopatra / Gonepteryx cleopatra) butterfly. 
We continued on North and took the Ventas de Huelma road in Cacín hoping to see some raptors during the drive there bu we were unlucky. Once in Ventas we took a minor road across country heading back to the agricultural areas where we had started the day, just after we left the village I picked up two Great Spotted Cuckoo's in flight which landed in a tree not to far from the roadside and gave us great views and Steve managed to get some cracking photograps. Further on we stopped near an abandoned Cortijo and had good views of a group of at least 8 Lesser Kestrels (Cernicola Primilla / Falco naumanni). From here we made our way back to the motorway and then on back to the meeting point a the hotel.

Thanks Steve and Elena for yet another great day out in the field and for the use of some of your shots.


Photographs from the top: Great Spotted Cuckoo's (Crialo Europeo / Clamator gladarius), Yellow Wagtail (Lavandera Boyera / Motacilla flava iberiae), Cattle Egrets (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), Province Hairstreaks (Cardenillo / Tomares ballus) and Lesser Kestrel (Cernicola Primilla / Falco naumanni).

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