Thursday, 5 March 2015

Huetor Tajar

Wednesday 4 March

Just like "Brigadoon" here yesterday morning when we got up.  Only 8.30 and the sun was beating down from a clear blue sky yet down in the valley below us nothing; nothing but a thick, dense blanket of fluffy white cloud.  The sea mist must have been up to around an hundred metres as even Benamacara was covered resulting in the higher Iznate appearing to be resting on the white carpet. But we should worry as Jenny and I were off on an inland birding trip to Huetor Tajar and the wonders of the Cacin valley and travelling upwards and over the pass at Ventas de Zafarraya.

Corn Bunting Triguero Emberiza calandra
Or so we thought!  No sooner had we cleared the pass and driven through the "Magpie Woods" to the farming hinterland beyond to take the old, now repaired, road to Salar than we discovered that it was not only the valley bottom that ha attracted the low-lying mist.  We could see the edge of the road and perhaps twenty or so metres beyond bu the electricity wires that so often held Corn Buntings and shrikes were invisible.  So much for stopping to check if there were any Calandra or Short-toed Larks about; all we could do to see our own short toes.  Approaching the old road we were greeted by the occasional Wood Pigeon and occasional Thekla and Crested Larks, even a bedraggles Stonechat, before finding a large flock of about forty Corn Buntings.  A pair of Mistle Thrushes had crossed the road immediately in front of us at the start of the Magpie Woods and now we saw our first, three, common Magpies.  A single Chaffinch and Blue Tit in the trees at the far end of the road added tot eh tally and then we were on the main road towards Salar and the motorway.

Was it any better?  No, it got decidedly worse as we travelled the narrow road along the ridge and only on reaching the motorway did we actually consider turning off the main headlights.  Leaving the motorway, the day was a little clearer but, nevertheless, we decided on a coffee stop in the hope the the light would get better.  It did; slightly.

On arrival a walk down the pathway to check out the Stone Curlew fields produced Black Redstarts but no sign of the target bird or even a lapwing.  Collared Doves and Serins and then the first of very many Linnets during the morning but generally very quiet.  A small charm of Goldfinches moved over the fields and the first Kestrel above gradually added to the tally and then we moved on round to check out the river and see if the Jack Snipe was till about.  No snipe but a couple of  Reed Buntings in the ditch and then a single Wren.  On the opposite of the road. White Wagtails were in the river bed along with a number of Chiffchaff.

On across the road and a stop on the track above the Cacin where we found a single Green Sandpiper, a Greenfinch and my first Tree Sparrows of the year.  The, as well as the Barn Swallows feeding over the river, a single Water Pipit in the water and along with more White Wagtails my first Yellow Wagtail (Blue-headed iberiae) of 2015.  Moving on down the track we stopped and saw more Goldfinches along with a trio of Blackcap.  then it was back and across the ford to do the nearby circuit in the hope that we might find the Little Bustards but, once again, we were unsuccessful.  The most we could manage was a trio of Sky Larks and then a Heron and a couple of Cattle Egrets.

Green Sandpiper Andarrios Grande Tringa ochropus
Next, having filled up with fuel, we drove down the Cacin Valley where we started with a Southern Grey Shrike then added more Chiffchaffs and Great Tit.  A Cetti's Warbler was seen and heard followed by another Blackcap.  The lake itself held a small number of Common Coots along with mallard, Shoveler and Pochard plus at least three Cormorants.  Jenny spotted the "lump" in the top of a tree down at the shallow end and using scope and bibs could see that she had actually found a resting Osprey; that got her out of the car in somewhat of a hurry!  The bird eventually took off and eventually made the top of the hill above us to the right where it was joined by a second raptor; not another Osprey but a female Marsh Harrier who took offence at her presence before, the latter, made her way down to cover at the waterside.

Little Owl Mochuelo Comun Athena noctua
Following a short stop for a very light snack in Cacin itself, we then set off towards Alhama de Granada where we soon found a Little Owl resting on a ruined roof.  Too late for the camera, the bird had flown.. But we did find a second individual as we left the town to head back towards the Magpie Woods, on the same pile of stones/rocks where we have Little Owls on previous occasions. Obviously a favoured day roost for these delightful little birds.

However, before this we had explored the riverside walk on the entrance to Cacin village and found not only White Wagtails, Cetti's Warblers and Chiffchaffs but also three Grey Wagtails, such lovely birds at this time of the year.  The old road away from the village produced Crag Martins on the gorge face and a couple of views of overflying Ravens.

And so we approached the site where the above Little Owl was to be seen wondering if we were going to actually see an Azure-winged Magpie having just seen another quartet of magpies near the solar panels.  Then, to my right, a single Azure-winged Mapie which put up another, then joined a small group which built into a larger group until, finally, at least fifty individuals crossed the road in front of us en mass.

The final stop was at Ventas de Zafarraya following a drive up to the tunnel just to check if there were any Choughs about.  A walk through the tunnel then produced a Black Wheatear and upon returning a about six Choughs returned to the cliff face with their usual callings and greetings.  So ended a a very pleasant day out despite the poor light which almost precluded any photography but we had managed to finally record 50 species.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Shoveler, Pochard, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Heron, Osprey, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Coot, Green Sandpiper, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Crested lark, Thekla lark, Sky Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Water Pipit, Yellow Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Wren, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Cetti's Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Southern Grey Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Chough, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Reed Bunting, Corn Bunting.

Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information

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