Thursday 9 January 2014

My turn to look for Stone Curlews at Huetor Tajar

Wednesday 8 January

Little Owl  Mochuelo Comun  Athene noctua
As mentioned in the last blog, I had no sooner got back from my morning at Huetor Tajar than I received an email informing me that John and Jenny wainwright had been there the day before.  Looking at the record of birds seen it is remarkable how we could come up with such different lists within twenty-four hours.  For me, I left home by 8.30 with the prospect of a sunny day following a mild night only to discover that the outside temperature as I drove through Ventas de Zafarraya and the "Magpie Woods" (not a species seen) was down to MINUS one.  Indeed, the temperature remained in the 4 to 8 range until I reached Huetor Tajar and noticed that I had once more fallen to a mere 2C.  Time to put on the woolly hat before setting off along the narrow footpath from the town to the back of the target area.

But I digress; there was birding to be undertaken before arriving at the above destination just on ten o'clock.  Collared Doves and White Wagtails as I started the climb up to the pass at Ventas de Zafarraya and I even had a handful of Crag Martins soon after.  Nothing to be seen as I passed through the Magpie Woods and headed off left to the growing fields where, no Calandra Larks, but I did [pick up a Kestrel, my first Magpie of the day, Rock Doves, Wood Pigeons and Spotless Starlings.  Heading towards the Alhama de Granada to Loja road I cam across a very wind-blown Little Owl sitting on a small rock at the side and it even remained long enough for me to get out of the car and grab a quick photograph.  Approaching Salar I had small flocks of Goldfinches, Serin and Linnets along with a single Southern Grey Shrike.

One of a pair of Dartford Warblers  Curruca Rabilarga  Sylvia undata
Then, as above, it was off along the small footpath in search of the Stone Curlews.  Greeted by both Rock and Collared Doves, I had no sooner started walking that I came across a rather splendid Black Redstart and, immediately afterwards, a Dartford Warbler flew into a nearby bush revealing a second.  Lots of small birds on and near this path including White Wagtails and the occasional Stonechat and then, lucky for me, in time to see the departure of the only Bluethroat recorded during the day.  To my left there were good numbers of feeding and roving sparrows which I, at first, naturally assume would be House Sparrows.  No sooner confirmed using my binoculars when I noted that, in fact, the majority were Tree Sparrows.

Tree Sparrow Gorrion Molinero Passer montanus
Approaching the target field I immediately saw the little shapes that would indicate Stone Curlews but there was a certain, unusual lightness about the colour.  The scope soon confirmed my suspicion, I had found a flock of about forty Golden Plover in amongst, maybe, over an hundred Stone CurlewsSpotless Starlings everywhere and having found the first Lapwing, it soon became obvious that, again, there were scores of these birds both resting and moving about the site.  But, indeed, the Golden Plovers were not the first "large" birds recorded for there was a small covey of six Red-legged Partridges and amore in the field on the opposite side of the path.  Returning to the car I also picked up both Crested Lark and Corn Bunting along with more Stonechats and Black Redstarts.

A good drive round thee area taking in the Stone Curlews for the road and then alongside the river before returning on the other side duly produced Blackbird and more large flocks of both Lapwing and Spotless Starlings and another Kestrel.  A flock of about the same size of Golden Plovers arrived but I suspect that this was simply the original birds changing feeding area.  A single Buzzard arrived and perched on top of an electricity pylon and the only birds that seemed to beat a hasty retreat were three Stock Doves.  The last time I saw these birds in the same field that seemed hardly to move at all.  A few Goldfinches and House Sparrows were also recorded but the river itself only produced three White Wagtails; all members of the heron family, Water Pipits and waders were just not to be seen.  On the other hand, a good number of Chiffchaffs were feeding in the rushes at the water's edge.

Part of the 100+ Stone Curlews Alcaravan Comun Burhinus oedicnemus.  I counted 28; how about you?
Passing Chaffinches I duly made my way to the far side of the town to try and track down the wintering Little Bustards and stopping near the olive trees, I was duly rewarded by a couple of large "blobs" that suddenly popped up from the greenery.  Having found the right area it was not long before I had distant views of at least twenty individuals.  Driving nearer to the birds was a complete failure as I was now below eye-level nut, nevertheless, the birds had been recorded.

Noting that fuel prices were even cheaper here than at the "new" filling station on the edge of the town, I took the opportunity to completely fill the car before heading off home via the Cacin valley.  A good number of Chaffinches to be seen and then I stopped at the bend near the bridge over the outlet stream.  More Chaffinches again but also Chiffchaffs , a Zitting Cisticola and a couple of Blackcaps and Goldfinches.

Then it was on to the lake itself and a chance to check out what was on the water.  First up a small number of Teal and a couple of Moorhen and, swinging the scope towards the deep end I immediately found a couple of Little Grebe, a number of both Mallard and Pochard along with a dozen or so Coots.  A single Cormorant was seen and then, by way of a complete surprise, a pair of Wigeon.  Finally, turning towards the village and noting a couple of Song Thrushes on the side of the main road ahead of me, I parked and took a short walk along the river bank where a Grey Wagtail was disturbed and I also added both Great and Long-tailed Tits to the day's list.  Leaving the area I then noted that a Mistle Thrush had arrived in the same location as the previous thrushes and I headed off on the old road towards the Puente Romano.  All very quiet with just more Chaffinches.

The final stop was at the mirador in Ventas de Zafarraya where I took a walk up and through the tunnel, finding Chough, Black Wheatear and Blue Rock Thrush thrush along the way plus yet another couple of White Wagtails and a good number of feeding Crag Martins.  Then it was the relatively short journey home arriving before 5pm and having recorded 50 species during the day.

Birds seen:
Wigeon, Mallard, Teal, Pochard, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Buzzard, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Little Bustard, Stone Curlew, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Rock Dove, Stock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Zitting Cisticola, Dartford Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Southern Grey Shrike, Magpie, Chough, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

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