Friday, 13 March 2015

Huetor Fields and the Cacín Valley, Western Granada Province.

Birds, Butterflies and Orchids on another good day in the Cacín.

I met John Webster at the Cortijo de Tajar hotel just off the A92 at exit 203 and we headed out on to the fields starting by checking the ditches on the Eastern side of the local patch. As we left the car we had fleeting views of a Bluethroat (Pechiazul / Luscinia svecica)as it flew away from us and then I picked up a new species for my local patch a Black-headed Gull (Gaviota Riedora / Larus ridibundus) which flew through high and off towards the Rio Genil. A little futher along the ditch we had nice views of a Cetti's Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti), several Greenfinches (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris) and Tree Sparrows (Gorrión Molinero / Passer montanus), Meadow Pipit (Bisbita Pratense / Anthus pratensis), Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita), Zitting Cisticola (Buitrón / Cisticola juncidis), House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer domesticus), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina) and White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba). We checked the two small drainage pools where we had cracking views of a male Bluethroat with a full blue throat, along with a couple of Reed Buntings (Escribano Palustre / Emberiza schoeniclus) which flew away low and rapidly. On our way back up to the car we picked up a single Snipe (Agachadiza Común / Gallinago gallinago), Yellow Wagtail (Lavandera Boyera / Motacilla flava iberiae), Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis) and  Crested Lark (Cogujada / Galerida cristata). 
We moved on and had a look along the lower stretch of the Arroyo Vilano and soon bumped the list up with Green Sandpiper (Andarrios Grande / Tringa ochropus), Little Ringed Plover (Chorlitejo Chico / Charadrius dubius), Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa), Grey Wagtail (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea), Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra) and Great Tit (Carbonera Común / Parus major).
We moved on around to the higher stretch of the Arroyo seeing several Iberian Magpies (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus) on the way and down by the water we had a rather rough looking Water Pipit (Bisbita Alpino / Anthus spinoletta) which was part way through its moult as looking rather shabby. We also had several more Yellow Wagtails, Little Ringed Plovers and Green Sandpipers on this upper stretch. 
Our next stop was on the central fields where we looked for but did not find the Little Bustards (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax), we did however have several Skylarks (Alondra Común / Alauda arvensis) and Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula).
Again we moved on this time to the far fields where we found just a single male Little Bustard on the furthest point of the field. We walked along the edge of the field watching a chap pick some very nice looking Asparagusand getting some much better views of the Bustard and a nice male Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros).
We left the Local Patch and headed for Balsa de Rigedor a small pool on the side of the A92 between Mesia and Moraleda adding Red-rumped Swallow (Golondrina Dáurica / Hirudo daurica) on the way. Once at the lake we scanned the water and we soon counted 27 Common Pochards (Porrón Común / Aythya ferina), 17 Northern Shovelers (Pato Cuchara / Anas clypeata), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), 21 Little Grebes (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis), Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra) and Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinulas chloropus). On the rotting branches around the margins there were dozens of Stripe-necked Terrapin (Mauremys leprosa) basking in the sun and several Small Whites (Artogeia rapae) and Speckled Woods (Pararge aegeria) flew under the near by Almonds. In the same Almonds we saw several Common Chiffchaffs (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita), Blackcaps (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricailla) and a couple of Song Thrushes (Zorzal Común / Turdus philomelos).
Our next stop was on the fields near Moraleda, we approched the site from the Northern tracks and parked near an area of old abandoned Almond groves and straight away I noticed that there were lots of butterflies on the wing including Clouded Yellow (Colias Común / Colias corcea), Bath  (Blanqiverdosa / Pontia daplidice) and Large Whites (Pieris brassicae), Southern Brown Argus (Aricia cramera), Province Hairstreak (Cardenillo / Tomares ballus), Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus F lyllus), Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) and Spanish Festoon (Zerynthia rumina).
As we started to walk amongst the Almonds we heard several Great Spotted Cuckoo's (Crialo Europeo / Clamator gladarius) approach and soon had views of two stunning
birds sat in a nearby tree. There were probably around 6 birds in the flock and all were calling loudly and at the same time we could also hear Stone Curlew (Alcaraván Común / Burhinus oedicnemus). We walked out on a track where we picked up Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala) and a single Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia) which flew over quickly. In the groves we found several spikes of Fan-lipped Orchid (Orchis conica) along with lots of Field marigold (Calendula arvensis), Common Grape Hyacinth (Muscari neglectum), Crown Daisy (Chrysanthemum carinatum var discolor), Henbit Deadnettle (Lamium amplexicaule), Purple Bugloss (Echium plantagineum), Southern Knapweed (Centaurea pullata ssp pullata), Western ramping-fumitory (Fumaria occidentalis) and Southern Daisy (Bellis cordifolia). We made our way steadily round the tracks until we reached Cortijo Capitana where we scanned the fields, on the way we had views of Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulgar / Falco tinnunculus), Calandra Lark (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra), Iberian Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis), Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata) and amongst the Olives several Rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) and an Iberian Brown Hare (Lepus europaeus / capensis). Near the cortijo we had several more butterflies including Wall Brown (Lasiommata
megera), Swallowtail (Papilio machaon) and Scarce Swallowtail (Chupaleches / Iphiclides podalirius feisthameli) along with Carpentor Bee (Xylocopa violacea) and a calling Common Quail (Codorniz Común / Coturnix coturnix). We continued on the trackand then down into the Cacín Valley via the bar in El Turro where we collected a sandwich for lunch later and had a coffee, in the town we had a group of House Martins (Avión Común / Delichon urbica).
We made a stop at a couple of points in the Pine woods on our way along the river and picked up Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla) and both Green Woodpecker (Pito Real / Picus viridis) and Coal Tits (Carbonero Garrapinos / Parus ater) were heard and found several spikes of Ophrys forestieri.
We moved on down to the bridge over the Rio Cacín where we checked the bushes and reedbeds where we added Blue Tit (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus), a single male Common Crossbill (Piquituerto Común / Loxia curvirostra) and a dark phase Booted Eagle (Aguililla Calzada / Hieraaetus pennatus) which passed down the valley, this was followed a couple of minutes later by a female Marsh Harrier (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus) which was moving back up to the lake and two Common Buzzards (Busardo Ratonero / Buteo buteo) which were circling over the pine woods. We got back to the car and went up to the lake where we saw three Marsh Harriers, two males and a female, on the water we saw more Common Pochards, Northern Shoveler, Mallard, Common Moorhens, Eurasian Coot, Little Grebe, Little-ringed Plovers, Green Sandpiper and a very smart Water Rail (Rascón Europeo / Rallus aquaticus) on the muddy margins.
We moved on down the valley to the gorge and soon we were having great views of our first Bonelli's Eagle (Aguila-azor / Hieraetus faciatus) of the day, this bird was hunting over the fields over the fields above the gorge. In the same area we had distant but identifiable views of Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura), Blue-rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius), Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris) and four Red-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax). We retraced our way back down the valley and took the turning through Cacín but stopped by the river and had a walk, on the way up stream we picked up lots more Blackcaps, another Grey Wagtail and several Whites, Great Spotted Woodpecker (Pico Picapinos / Dendrocopos major), Cetti's Warbler and Robin (Petirrojo Europeo / Erithacus rubecula). At the furthest point along the river I heard a call which confused me for a moment but then I saw a male of a Penduline Tit (Pájaro Moscón / Remiz pendulinus) which was a species I had not seen in the valley before. On the walk back we had very nice views of a singing male Cirl Bunting (Escribano Soteno / Emberiza cirlus). We went up through Cacín and on to the ridge above picking up a second Bonelli's Eagle which was sat on a pylon and being mobbed by several Jackdaws.  Further along the road we parked and scanned the nearby ridges looking for raptors and as we watch two Jacdaws come over a nearby hump we realized they were mobbing a female Merlin (Esmerejón / Falco columbarius). The Merlin dropped low and soon gave its pursuers the slip and on a slightly more distant ridge we picked up a nice pale phase Booted Eagle as it soared over the Olive trees.
We continued on along the road to Ventas and took the road towards Moraleda, on the way we had good but distant views of an adult Golden Eagle (Águila Real / Aquila chrysaetos) which was being mobbed by a Common Buzzard. Just a little further along the road we stopped near two abandoned buildings and had a couple of Lesser Kestrels (Cernicola Primilla / Falco naumanni) and then set off for the hotel picking up a Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua) in a road side tree which was the last bird of the day. The total for the day was 82 species either seen or heard.

Photographs from the top: Cetti's Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti), Little Ringed Plover (Chorlitejo Chico / Charadrius dubius), Almond Blossom, Great Spotted Cuckoo's (Crialo Europeo / Clamator gladarius), Marsh Harrier (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus), Ophrys forestieri, Fan-lipped Orchid (Orchis conica) and 3x Bonelli's Eagle (Aguila-azor / Hieraetus faciatus).

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