Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Cordoba with the Andalucia Bird Society

Sunday 18 May

A birding day with a difference.  Along with other members of the Andalucia Bird Society Jenny and I made our first birding visit to the immediate countryside around the city of Cordoba which included a range of habitats from riverside to mountain and back to deep valleys with river dams.  A beautiful day, perhaps too hot, with hardly a cloud in the sky and only the hint of a breeze to add any comfort.

Our first stop, just  couple of kilometres east of the city at Las Quemadas, took us through a recently-harvested corn filed to a shady pond alongside the mighty river Guadalquivir.  The pond was fringed with reeds and a wooded copse separated the track from the river.  A pair of Mallards took departure as we approached and a few members had already seen the single Little Grebe hiding at the back of the pool.  Approaching the pond, we had all seen a good number of Bee-eaters and Lesser Kestrels in the company of both Barn and Red-rumped Swallows along with a few Corn Buntings, House Sparrows, Collared Doves and a rather delicate Zitting Cisticola.  Whilst a number of Wood Pigeons moved through the trees there was an absolute cacophony of bird song from an exciting group of birds including Golden Oriole, Penduline Tit, Nightingale, Cetti's Warbler, Blackcaps and Reed Warbler.  The  Great Reed Warbler eventually climbed to the top of the reeds to expose itself to all along with both Blue and a handful of Long-tailed Tits.  A constant calling from the Turtle Doves and, I think, at least one poor view amongst the higher branches of the riverside trees which were now in full leaf.  Leaving the quartet of Coots to continue feeding on the water and at least eight newly-fledged Barn Swallows resting on the reeds on the far bank we made our way back to the cars to move on to the, relatively, nearby edge of the Sierra Morena overlooking the Guadalquivir valley.

A short stop at a rather lovely meadow produced a large number of feeding Barn Swallows over the field along with a great assortment of butterflies including rather splendid yellow Cleopatras gonepteryx cleopatra.  There was a constant calling from a a couple of Hoopoes, one of which was eventually seen.  Naturally, Blackbirds were recorded and we even had a passing Griffon Vulture.  In addition, at this site I believe, a couple of members managed to find a Pied Flycatcher.

This slope with its panoramic view usually gave views of migrating raptors and we were not to be disappointed as we both watched and ate our picnic lunch.  In addition to a number of Common Swifts we had a Short-toed Eagle almost as soon as we arrived and then, having watched a few Rock Sparrows and an off Serin in the neighbouring trees, a distant, high Golden Eagle slowly made its way p the valley and away.  A number of Crested Larks and even Spotless Starlings were seen in the area and leaving this site for our next stop at the higher river dam we recorded both Azure-winged and (Common) Magpie.

Little Egret Garceta Comun Egretta garzetta

What a sight awaited us; hundreds of nesting House Martins on both sides of the dam wall and the air thick with birds, just like a plague of giant insects!  Numerous calling Golden Orioles and, just before leaving, we actually managed to see a lovely male fly across the river and into the trees on the far side near the overflow slipway.  There were numerous Rock Doves, House Sparrows and Spotless Starlings below the dam and then a single Little Egret made its way upstream to a shady spot below the dam.  watching this white apparition led to the discovery of a single Night Heron and, before leaving, we managed to find a couple more including one very close to the dam.   However, the best sight was not the single Common Kestrel resting on the dam but possibly the single Black Kite that spent considerable time patrolling the far bank and its trees before then making very close passes immediately over the downside wall of the dam.  Was he thinking of taking a House Martin?  Now that would have been a challenge and interesting to watch.

Night Heron  Martinete Comun  Nycticorax nycticorax
With one more stop at the lower river dam before making our individual departures back to the city and onwards, we drove along the narrow, winding country lane which, once again, produced some incredible sights.  Frank Hair stopped in front of us so that we remaining cars could watch a quite close Bonelli's Eagle above.  Overtaking Frank to catch up the rest of the party, we had hardly driven a kilometre when a most handsome male Golden Oriole flew out of the trees on the left and proceeded to fly along the road for about an hundred metres not more than ten metres in front of the car.  As if that was not wonderful enough, with a further five hundred meters another two male Golden Orioles undertook the same flight pattern albeit this time for only about twenty metres.  Marvellous.  Next up was a male Sardinian Warbler and then Janet Dixon was the first to see the single Red Kite on her side of the car. We certainly had a tale or two to report to the gathered group at our final stop.  Here, again patrolling the immediate area above the stone dam wall we had another close view of a Black Kite.

Florent busy at work identifying the "bugs"
Many thanks are due to our leader for the day, local member Florent Prunier, who had a marvellous knowledge of the insect world so lots of identification of all sorts of "bugs" as we moved from site to site.  No doubt, like probably everybody else, we all managed to add White Storks as we passed through a rather large colony approaching Cordoba from the north to give a final total of about 45 species for the most interesting day.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Little Grebe, Night Heron, Little Egret, White Stork, Red Kite, Black Kite, Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Golden eagle, Bonelli's Eagle, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Coot, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Common Swift, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Nightingale, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Pied Flycatcher, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Penduline Tit, Golden Oriole, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Serin and Corn Bunting.

Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information. 

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