Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Cacín Valley, Granada Province.

Another birding day in and around the Cacín Valley.

I started the day by meeting up with Tana and Craig at the Mirador San Cristobel just out side the Albazin in Granada who were visiting from Vancouver, Canada, we headed out of the city towards Moraleda and out on to the fields nearby. On our way out to the site we started the list off with the first of quite a few lifers for Tana and Craig with nice views of a pair of Thekla Larks (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae) which showed well making describing the identification features easier. In the same area we added Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor) and Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris). A little further on the second new species was a pair of Little Owls (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua), one perched on the roof of a ruin and the second bird at the entrance to the nest hole which was in the side of a disused roadside construction. Next came a male Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala) which sang nicely (well if you can call the scratchy rattle singing) from a still bear fig tree and a Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops) which flashed away over the Olives. Once out on the fields we picked up a Short-toed Lark (Terrera Común / Calandrella brachydactyla) which was singing from the ground, several Calandra Larks (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra) which showed well during short flight but disappeared in to the crops once on the ground and a Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra) jangling out its call from the top of a flowering Almond tree. 
We moved through the trees and scanned the fields the other side seeing more Calandra Larks and the first Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulgar / Falco tinnunculus) for the day. Our next stop was at the ruin of a Cortijo on the hill top, as soon as we got out of the car a group of 7 Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Ganga Ortega / Pterocles orientalis) took off and did a wide circle of us before landing at the bottom end of another field not to far away. In the same area we had good flight views of two Great Spotted Cuckoo (Crialo Europeo / Clamator gladarius) which passed by noisily heading to the Almond groves at the bottom of the same field and as we watched them disappear we located a single Stone Curlew (Alcaraván Común / Burhinus oedicnemus) right on the edge of the same plantation. As we did not get good views of this bird we took the track across the centre of this fallow field to try and get a bit nearer, on the way we had good views of 18 or so Black-bellied Sandgrouse on the ground and in flight. We arrived at the far end of the field but could not located the Curlew, we retraced our way back to the Cortijo and onwards around the site. We checked out the far fields and the areas around the Solar panels, where we had a chance to get close views of a Crested Lark (Cogujada / Galerida cristata) which gave us the time to look at the differences between it and the Thekla's we had seen earlier. Also seen during this part of the drive were Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina), Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Meadow Pipit (Bisbita Pratense / Anthus pratensis), Green Woodpecker (Pito Real / Picus viridis), Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula), a second Stone Curlew and Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus) but we only heard the required Little Bustard (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax) so we headed back towards the entry point and checked some more fields in that area. As soon as we arrived we could hear the birds and a few minutes later we located two male birds in amongst the crops. In and around the fields we saw several wildflowers including Field marigold (Calendula arvensis), Clypeola jonthlaspi, Eruca sativa, Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis), Common Fumitory (Fumaria officinalis), Corn Gromwell (Buglossoides arvense) and Henbit Deadnettle (Lamium amplexicaule). Butterflies were also up and about by the time we were leaving and we saw several Bath Whites (Blanqiverdosa / Pontia daplidice), Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) and a Swallowtail (Papilio machaon).
From here we headed down into the valley, at the top of the road in to El Turro we picked up a couple of Pallid Swifts (Vencejo Pálido /Apus pallidus) and the first Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata). Our next stop was at the bridge over the Cacín, on the way we saw a couple of Mistle Thrushes (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus) which flew up off the side of the road and a good number of spikes of Somber Bee Orchid (Abejera oscura / Ophrys fusca subsp fusca). Along the river the number of birds was much lower than expected and most were heard but not seen, we did see White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba), Robin (Petirrojo Europeo / Erithacus rubecula), Long-tailed  (Mito / Aegithalos caudatus) and Great Tits (Carbonera Común / Parus major), House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer domesticus) and Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricailla) and we heard Cetti's Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti), Coal Tit (Carbonero Garrapinos / Parus ater), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus) and Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes). During the stroll around here we saw a single Moroccan Orange-tip (Anthocharis belia), Large White (Pieris brassicae), Clouded Yellow (Colias Común / Colias corcea) and heard several Iberian Water Frogs (Rana Común / Rana Perezi).
We moved along the road a short way to the Embalse de Cacín, in a bush at the side of the road we glimpsed a female Cirl Bunting (Escribano Soteno / Emberiza cirlus), added a nice Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator) to the day list and my year list and had better views of a fine male Common Stonechat. On the lake we picked up Northern Shoveler (Pato Cuchara / Anas clypeata), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), Common Pochard (Porrón Común / Aythya ferina), Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis), Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra) and Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinulas chloropus). Whilst Craig and I were down by the lake Tana had stayed by the car, we had looked for but did not see any of the Water Rails (Rascón Europeo / Rallus aquaticus) I had had on a previous tour but when we got back to Tana she had had views of a bird on the edge of the main in flowing stream which we had missed !!!
Whilst we were looking around the lake we also had good views of several Green  Sandpipers (Andarrios Grande / Tringa ochropus), two Common Redshank (Archibebe Común / Tringa totanus), Little Ringed Plover (Chorlitejo Chico / Charadrius dubius), Yellow Wagtail (Lavandera Boyera / Motacilla flava iberiae) and House Martin (Avión Común / Delichon urbica). 
We continued on down the valley into the gorge and soon had nice views of both male and female Bonelli's Eagle (Aguila-azor / Hieraetus faciatus) and Red-billed Choughs (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), I could hear several Rock Sparrows (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia) but they were so far down in the gorge we could not see them. We retraced our way back up the valley to the bridge where we again saw Red-billed Chough along with two Cleopatra (Cleopatra / Gonepteryx cleopatra) butterflies.
From here we headed over the ridge back towards Granada, on the way we stopped a couple of times, once to watch a pair of Booted Eagles (Aguililla Calzada / Hieraaetus pennatus) and a little later as we turned around to go to a garage to get some extra water we picked up two male Black-eared Wheatears (Collalba Rubia / Oenanthe hispanica) on a roadside field. Once we had got the supplies we were off again, this time we took an across country track looking for birds on the fields, we had some nice views of a Hoopoe, a large flock of mixed birds most of which were Calandra Larks but with a scattering of Corn Buntings and some late Skylarks
Our last stop of the day was at another ruined Cortijo where we were hoping to get views of the Lesser Kestrel (Cernicola Primilla / Falco naumanni) that are usually there, as we pulled up there was no sign of them but with a scan around the fields we soon found them feeding not to far away. During this scan Craig also picked up a nice female Marsh Harrier (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus) amongst the Kestrels. We crossed the main road and took another track and got much better views of the birds from here before heading back to the Motril / Granada motorway and then back in to the city.
We returned to the spot near the Mirador and Craig and Tana headed back to there accommodation and I made my way home, On the way I added a couple of species to my day list including Snipe (Agachadiza Común / Gallinago gallinago), Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa), Zitting Cisticola (Buitrón / Cisticola juncidis) and a very nice male Montagu's Harrier (Aguilucho Cenizo / Circus pygargus) right outside the house.

Thanks to Tana and Craig, enjoyed your company and had a great days birding. Thanks for supporting Granada Wildlife.

Photographs from the top: Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Ganga Ortega / Pterocles orientalis), Thekla Larks (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua), Tana and Craig, Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Bonelli's Eagle (Aguila-azor / Hieraetus faciatus), Booted Eagle (Aguililla Calzada / Hieraaetus pennatus), Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops), Lesser Kestrel (Cernicola Primilla / Falco naumanni), Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata).

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