Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Huetor Tajar, Granada Province

Tuesday 23 February

A beautiful ,clear, sunny day and becoming quite warm by mid-day.  Arriving at Huertor Tajar I met up with Barbara and Derek Etherton who had brought Micky Smith with them and, within minutes also joined by John and Jenny Wainwright who live in nearby Salar.  Then off we set for the fields on the far side of the town with our target birds the winter residing Stone Curlews and Little Bustards.  Whilst we were busy birding during the afternoon, John and Jenny had returned home so that by the time I got back John's report of the morning activities had already arrived.  This forms the start of today's birding account.

A very warm day with a breeze now and then.
One of at least forty Stone Curlew Burhinus oedionems at Huetor Tajar
We met for coffee at the km 204 hotel and then proceeded through the town centre and parked up opposite the small track that heads out towards the railway line. Here we saw Collared Doves, male and female Black Redstarts, Crested Larks, Chaffinches, Greenfinches and a few Goldfinches.  Moving along the track - watching where we put our feet - at the bare tree we found Tree Sparrows, a House Sparrow and Stonechats, whilst in the fields to our right three Short-toed Larks, Meadow Pipits, Crested Larks and yet more Tree Sparrows were noted.

Lots of Tree Sparrows Passer montanus about

To our left, firstly it was two Lapwings then it was three Stone Curlews, then lots more of the latter were found in the furrows and the greenery.  Above these birds we saw House Martins and Barn Swallows and a few Spotless Starlings.  White Wagtails were in good numbers as were Linnets and Stonechats, while a couple of Zitting Cisticola were spotted.  In the area by the railway line we saw Serins, Dartford Warblers, Sardinian Warblers, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Tree Sparrows and scanning the wires for Starlings a Little Owl was seen close to a telegraph pole.

Dartford Warbler Sylvia undata

Retracing our steps and heading across country, we stopped and searched the irrigation canals and Rio Genil where we found Grey Wagtail, Common Waxbills, Blackbird, Zitting Cisticola, Goldfinches and Greenfinches, House Sparrows and White Wagtails.  Crossing over the Vva. Mesia road we saw Corn Buntings, Grey Wagtails, Chiffchaffs, Cattle Egret and looking over the Rio Genil we saw Blackcap, Black Redstarts, a Water Vole, then above us a Greater Cormorant went over.  As we  reached the car, a Buzzard was heard mewing in the distance.  Moving then along to the poplar copse we heard Chaffinches but they were not seen, likewise the Bramblings.
Then, parking up at the stream, we saw Azure-winged Magpies, Blackbirds, Chaffinch, Crested Larks, Linnets, and downstream a tad a Green Sandpiper was spotted.  This gave us good views as it took off and flew upstream past us.  Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were also singing. From here, across the back track that leads to the Loja road, we located two Little Bustards (where are all the others), two Magpies, Mistle Thrush, a small flock of Calandra Larks and both a Little Owl and Hoopoe were heard calling.

Distant record shot of one of the two Little Bustards Tetrax tetrax seen in the area
 We then split and went our different ways, thanks for the company guys and gals!!

Little Owl Athena noctua hoping not to be shot!
Whilst John and Jenny were driving home we four were enjoying a roll and coffee before setting off towards the Cacin Valley in the hope that we might find a few Black-bellied Sandgrouse.  Collared Doves, Wood Pigeons and Spotless Starlings on the way and then a stop to admire a Wryneck posed at the top of an almond tree and as I drove off the others had a lovely view of a Cirl Bunting.  A stop at the track entrance to our target site to admire a pair of Stonechats and a Corn Bunting and then we were there but, sadly, no sandgrouse.  Looking to the edge of the distant field we had a good sighting of a Buzzard and then a Little Owl flew out of the ruins behind us and posed on top of a sign, shame it was not a "No Parking" sign!

On down the Cacin Valley seeing a few Chaffinches and then a Jay flew across the road.  The first stop on the bend near the rock face produced a brief glimpse of a Blue Rock Thrush but the pair of Long-tailed Tits were very close. before we crossed the outlet stream from the reservoir.  Here we stopped to see more Chaffinches and Wood Pigeons along with a "croaky" Moorhen.

Finally, round the corner to park and walk across to the edge to look down over the reservoir.  Lots of Coots and Pochards and, as we looked, a handful of Mallard and a pair of Shoveler.  At least three resting Cormorants plus a very static Azure-winged Magpie.  Meanwhile, over the water, scores of White Wagtails feeding just above the top feeding on insects as if they were Flycatchers and above them scores of hirundines, mainly House Martins with good numbers of Barn Swallows along with the occasional Crag Martin, a couple of Sand Martins and Smithy manged to locate the single Red-rumped Swallow.  All good things must come to an end and time to make our respective ways back down to the coast.  As we turned the cars Derek managed to locate a single Teal and as he was showing me the duck a splendid female Marsh Harrier came into view over the reeds (no wonder the ducks took flight!) and was closely followed by the most handsome male.  They then proceeded with a little courting display before returning to roost in the nearby dead trees.  With that final display we set off having recorded, I think, a magnificent total of 64 birds.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Pochard, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Heron, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Little Bustard, Stone Curlew, Green Sandpiper, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Hoopoe, Wryneck, Calandra Lark, Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Sky Lark, Sand Martin, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Meadow Pipit, Blue-headed Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Bluethroat, Dartford Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Iberian Grey Shrike, Jay, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Waxbill, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Cirl Bunting, Corn Bunting.

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