Saturday, 28 February 2015

La Malaha and the Cacín Valley, Granada Province.

Day one with Liz Walsh from El Paso, Texas.

We set off along the Motorway and then on to the road out towards La Malaha calling at a semi derelict Cortijo where we started the list off with a few newly arrived Lesser Kestrels (Cernicola Primilla / Falco naumanni) which showed well on the roof amongst a mix of Feral (Paloma Bravía / Columba livia) and some quite convincing Rock Pigeons (Paloma Bravia / Columba livia). We left the car and had a short walk along a near by dry barranco where we had views of several Serins (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), dozens of Cattle Egrets (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis) coming in from the large roost in Granada, Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica), Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricailla), Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita), Crested Lark (Cogujada / Galerida cristata), Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula) and as we walked back towards the car we had brief but good views of two cracking newly arrived Great Spotted Cuckoos (Crialo Europeo / Clamator gladarius). Once we were at the car we had a small flock of White Wagtails (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba) feeding in a seepage from the farm building. We continued on up the road to the very large rubbish dump where we had large numbers of Lesser Black-backed Gulls (Gaviota Sombria / Larus fuscus) circling, a nice Iberian Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis) and Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor).
Our next site was an agricultural area on the western side of La Malaha where we had very good views of several Calandra (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra) and Skylarks (Alondra Común / Alauda arvensis) and Corn Buntings (Triguero / Emberiza calandra). We moved on towards Ventas de Huelma and into the Cacín Valley seeing Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto), Blue Tit (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops) and a couple of Common Starlings (Estornino Pinto / Sturnus vulg aris) amongst a group of Spotless.
Once down in the Valley we had a very productive walk along the Rio Cacín and almost straight away had exceptional views of a pair of Cetti's Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti) with the male of this noisy but secritive species displaying in a broom bush to his mate. We continued on adding Grey Wagtail (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea), Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Song (Zorzal Común / Turdus philomelos) and Mistle Thrushes (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus), Great Spotted Woodpecker (Pico Picapinos / Dendrocopos major) and a single Hawfinch (Picogordo / Coccotraustes coccotrauetes) which showed very well in a nearby poplar tree. On the return walk we added a singing male Cirl Bunting (Escribano Soteno / Emberiza cirlus) and a Robin (Petirrojo Europeo / Erithacus rubecula) before we reached the car.
We turned left and dropped down into the gorge where we parked and checked the cliffs seeing several Crag Martins (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris), a couple of noisy Red-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), Great Tit (Carbonera Común / Parus major) and Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala). 
After a while we made our way back up the valley passed Cacín to the Embalse where we quickly located a displaying pair of Marsh Harriers (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus) showing well over the reedbeds. On the water there were good numbers of Common Pochards (Porrón Común / Aythya ferina), several Northern Shovelers (Pato Cuchara / Anas clypeata), Eurasian Teal (Cerceta Común / Anas crecca), Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis) and fly passed Great Cormorant (Cormorán Grande / Phalacrocroax carbo) and Green Sandpipers (Andarrios Grande / Tringa ochropus). We move on down to the nearby bridge over the river where we checked the muddy margins from the road and flushed up a Snipe (Agachadiza Común / Gallinago gallinago) and saw lots more Blackcaps and Common Chiffchaffs before going for a walk down towards the dam. On the way we heard Coal Tits (Carbonero Garrapinos / Parus ater) and Common Crossbill (Piquituerto Común / Loxia curvirostra) before getting good views of a feeding Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla).
We made a very brief stop a little way up the valley to see several spikes of Ophrys forestieri on the roadside before going through El Turro and out on to a large agricultural area looking for the Black-bellied Sandgrouse but we dipped on this species. On the way in we had a Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua) sat on a ruin and several Barn Swallows (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica) feeding low over the Almond trees. In the same area we had quite a few more Calandra, Crested, Sky and Thekla Larks (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae) along with several Meadow Pipits (Bisbita Pratense / Anthus pratensis). On our way off this site by the dirt tracks we were very pleased to get very good views of a stunningly blue backed Merlin (Esmerejón / Falco columbarius) in amongst the small Almond trees. 
We stopped off at Balsa de Rigedor but did not add any thing we had not already seen at the Embalse earlier so we moved on to the Fields at Huetor via Mesia adding a Common Buzzard (Busardo Ratonero / Buteo buteo) on the way. 
Our first stop was along the ditches where we soon located one of thetwo wintering Jack Snipe (Agachadiza Chica / Lymnocriptes minimus) and eventually picked up one of the three male Bluethroats (Pechiazul / Luscinia svecica) but it did not show well and the blue throat remained unseen by Liz. We moved on along the Arroya Vilano seeing my earliest ever Yellow Wagtail (Lavandera Boyera / Motacilla flava iberiae) on the site, another Green Sandpiper, a single flying Northern Lapwing (Avefria Europea / Vanellus vanellus) and a Little Ringed Plover (Chorlitejo Chico / Charadrius dubius). On the central fields we came across the main targets in the shape of a 20 strong flock of almost all male Little Bustards (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax) which showed well. Our next to last stop of the day was on the far side of the area where we were looking for Stone Curlews but some one must have been out on their fields and flushed them earlier in the day so we continued on to the furthest fields to see if any had relocated there but did not find them but did find a 30+ flock of Golden Plovers (Chorlito Dorado Europeo / Pluvialis apricaria), a nice finish to a great days birding. We went up to the Cortijo de Tajar and Liz checked in and we sorted the start time for the next morning and then I headed home.

Photographs from the top: Hawfinch (Picogordo / Coccotraustes coccotrauetes), Little Ringed Plover (Chorlitejo Chico / Charadrius dubius) and four male Little Bustards (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax).

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