A morning down the Valley and the afternoon in the hills.
Day one with Richard and Mike from the UK.
Richard, Mike and I set off for the first of a couple of days birding around my local area and made a good start down on the fields near to the house where we made a couple of stops and picked up Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer domesticus), Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto), Zitting Cisticola (Buitrón / Cisticola juncidis), Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), Iberian / Azure-winged Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus), Great Tit (Carbonera Común / Parus major), House Martin (Avión Común / Delichon urbica), Crested Lark (Cogujada / Galerida cristata), Turtle Dove (Tórtola Europea / Streptopelia turtur), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Cetti's Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti), Common Swift (Vencejo Común / Apus apus), Reed Warbler (Carricero Común / Acrocephalus scrpaceus), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Grey Wagtail (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea) and best of all 2 Great Spotted Cuckoos (Crialo Europeo / Clamator gladarius) which were a lifer for Mike (the first of a few).
We drove through Mesia and along side the A92 to Balsa de Rigedor where we found Common Pochard (Porrón Común / Aythya ferina), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinulas chloropus) and Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis) before crossing the motorway and heading for the fields. On the way we saw European Bee-eater (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster), Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula), Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica), Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulgar / Falco tinnunculus) and a Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua) which showed well sat out on a chainlink fence in the sun.
Once we were out on the fields good birds just kept coming, including a nice male Little Bustard (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax), Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa), Short-toed (Terrera Común / Calandrella brachydactyla) and Calandra Larks (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra), Iberian / Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina), a couple of Roller (Carraca / Coracias garrulus) and last but the best were 3 Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Ganga Ortega / Pterocles orientalis).
We dropped down in to the Valley and turned south towards Cacín and drove down to a wooded spot along the river and soon got another good bird for the trip list an Eagle Owl (Buho Real / Bubo bubo) which was sat on a nearby ledge as well as Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus), Long-tailed (Mito / Aegithalos caudatus) and Blue Tits (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Robin (Petirrojo Europeo / Erithacus rubecula) and Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricailla). We moved a short distance up to the lake and found that the water level was low but we only managed to find a single Black-winged Stilt (Ciguenela Común / Himantopus himantopus), Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos) and White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba) all new for the list.
Other species seen during the drive down the valley included Red-striped Oil Beetle (Berberomeloe majalis), Stripe-necked Terrapin (Mauremys leprosa), Ocellated Lizard (Lacerta lepida), Clouded Yellow (Colias Común / Colias corcea), Small (Artogeia rapae) and Bath White (Blanqiverdosa / Pontia daplidice), Southern Blue (Polyommatus celina), Violet cabbage (Moricandia moricandioides), Blue Alkanet (Anchusa azurea), Sea Squill (Urginea maritima) and Globe Thistle (Echinops ritro).
We made a short stop and had some lunch before moving on up to Sierra de Loja, our first stop on the hill was at the disused quarry above Loja. Here we boosted the day list with several new species for the day including Spotted Flycatcher (Papamoscas Gris / Muscicapa striata), Common Crossbill (Piquituerto Común / Loxia curvirostra), Bonelli's Warbler (Mosquitero Papialbo / Phylloscopus bonelli), Red-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura), Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia), Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Griffon Vulture (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus) and Pallid Swift (Vencejo Pálido /Apus pallidus). We also had Viola dementria, Andalusian Storksbill (Erodium recorderi) and Brown Bluebell (Jacinto bastardo / Dipcadi serotinum), Southern Knapweed (Centaurea pullata ssp pullata),Wild Gladiolus (Gladiolus illyricus), Dianthus brachyanthus, Pyramidal Orchid (Orquidea Pyramidal / Anacamptis pyramidalia), Moroccan Orange-tip (Anthocharis belia) and Red-underwing Skipper (Spialia sertorius).
We moved on and headed straight out for the area of cliffs beyond Charca del Negro but had to make a couple of stops on the way for views of the stunning Black-eared Wheatear (Collalba Rubia / Oenanthe hispanica) as well as Red-rumped Swallow (Golondrina Dáurica / Hirudo daurica), Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris) and Blue-rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius). We reached the furthest point and started to look for the Orphean Warbler (Curruca Mirlano / Sylvia hortensis) which was our target but just as we started Richard found a roosting Scop's Owl (Autillo Europeo / Otus scops) which showed brilliantly for us. I got some OKish shot but we kept our distance to make sure we did not disturb it, after watching this superb bird for quite a while we dropped back down to Charca del Negro and soon found the Sharp-ribbed Salamander (Pleurodeles waltl) as they came up for air. Around the same area we had Blue / Common Emperor (Anax imperator), Southern Red Bartsia (Parentucellia latifolia), Saxifraga Camposii, Cerastium boissieri, Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator) and a cracking male Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush (Roquero Roja / Monticola saxatilis). We then dropped back down the hill and made our way back to the house where Jayne called us in quickly to show us a very smart Ladder Snake (Rhinechis scalaris) in our Quince tree.
Photographs from the top: Scop's Owl (Autillo Europeo / Otus scops), Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua), Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Ganga Ortega / Pterocles orientalis), Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia), Scop's Owl (Autillo Europeo / Otus scops), 2x views of the Andalusian Storksbill (Erodium recorderi) and 2x Ladder Snake (Rhinechis scalaris).