Day two with Abby Turner from New York, USA.
Abby and I started the day out on the fields near to Moraleda where we were hoping to find some special species for the trip list, on arrival we found that one of the tracks that leads out on to this area had a new chain across it so we headed straight down to the main track and out to the ruin on the high point in the area. As soon as we were out of the car we could hear good numbers of Larks which included Calandra (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra), Crested (Cogujada / Galerida cristata) and Skylarks (Alondra Común / Alauda arvensis), by the time we had finished at this site we had seen several hundred of the later species which had arrived for the winter in good flocks. Around the Cortijo we also saw Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua) and then just a short way down the field there were two female and one male Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Ganga Ortega / Pterocles orientalis). With the main target species under the belt we rolled down the hill and through the Solar Panel areas where we had very good views of a small flock of Rock Sparrows (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia) which were sat on the chain link fence as well as Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina), Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulgar / Falco tinnunculus) and what turned out to be Abby's bird of the trip a very smart Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops). On our way out of the site we had a female type Northern Wheatear (Collalba Gris / Oenanthe oenanthe), a couple of Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae) and a couple of Stone Curlews (Alcaraván Común / Burhinus oedicnemus) which flushed up from the track side as we passed.
We dropped down into the Cacín Valley and made our way down towards the Contra-embalse de Bermejalis by which time the clouds had started to break up a bit and we were getting the odd glimpes of sun. On the lake we boosted the list with species including Common Pochard (Porrón Común / Aythya ferina), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), Eurasian Teal (Cerceta Común / Anas crecca), Northern Shoveler (Pato Cuchara / Anas clypeata), Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis), Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinulas chloropus), a squealing but unseen Water Rail (Rascón Europeo / Rallus aquaticus), White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba) and Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris). A little way back up the valley we stopped by the bridge over the Cacín but it was quiet and we only added Blue (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus), Great (Carbonera Común / Parus major) and Crested Tits (Herrerillo Capuchino / Parus cristatus), Song Thrush (Zorzal Común / Turdus philomelos), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs) and Common Crossbill (Piquituerto Común / Loxia curvirostra).
Our next stop was at the small pool on the side of the A92 cal Balsa de Rigedor but we only viewed it from the motorway service road but picked up Great Cormorant (Cormorán Grande / Phalacrocroax carbo) for the day list.
We continued on through Mesia and then out on to the fields North of Huétor Tajar where we checked the fields, ditches and the river and added Green Sandpiper (Andarrios Grande / Tringa ochropus), Bluethroat (Pechiazul / Luscinia svecica), Zitting Cisticola (Buitrón / Cisticola juncidis), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Iberian Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus), Tree Sparrow (Gorrión Molinero / Passer montanus), Meadow Pipit (Bisbita Pratense / Anthus pratensis), Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea), Grey Wagtail (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea), some Stone Curlews which showed nicely on their roost field and a superb female Merlin (Esmerejón / Falco columbarius) which showed well for us while we were checking some fields with out any luck for the wintering Little Bustards (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax).
Our last stop of the day was up on the Sierra de Loja but the weather did not look great but we decided that it would be worth it as there were several species up there that we would not get another chance of during the trip. We drove up and called in at the small quarry where we started the battle to get decent views of a Dartford Warbler (Curruca Rabilarga / Sylvia undata), today we heard it well but had just fleeting glimpes as it moved around on a gorse covered slope and it was going to take a coule more attempts before we had tickable views for Abby. In the same area we had Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), Crag Martin, Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia) and a very smart male Black Redstart. We continued on up passed the crags and made our way up into the thick cloud and rain but again decided to carry on over to the furthest point but by the time we reached the far side things had not got much better and we saw nothing much but all of all sudden the cloud broke and we could see quite a good way and soon had cracking views of a Water Pipit (Bisbita Alpino / Anthus spinoletta) as it moved around amongst the rocks. Lower down I had views of an Alpine Accentor (Acentor Alpino / Prunella modularis) as it flicked around on a cliff top but could get Abby onto it which was the same story with a female Blue-rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius) which pocked it head above the rocks but did not give good enough views before slipping away again. The Ring Ouzels ( Mirlo Capiblanco / Turdus torquatus) which were looking for became more active as the clouds cleared and we eventually got good views of this very active and twitchy species as well as a Peregrine Falcon (Halcón Peregrino / Falco peregrinus) which swept in and away just as quickly before the cloud returned and made seeing the calling Red-billed Choughs (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) which were right above us immposable. We dropped back down the maountain and drove back to Huétor adding Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus) and Common Buzzard (Busardo Ratonero / Buteo buteo) to the day list before reaching the hotel.
Photographs from the top: Double rainbow on Sierra de Loja, Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea) and the best of the view up Sierra de Loja from the Ouzel site.