Eleonora's Falcon along the Rio Cacín.
Mick Richardson gives an account of one of his most recent day tours around the Granada area. Always a good area for birding, Mick has the uncanny knack of turning-up the unusual and this most recent trip proved to be no exception. Apart from showing his guests a real local specialty the Black-bellied Sandgrouse he happened upon an Eleonora’s Falcon (Mick’s first record for Granada province) and had great views of a male Merlin! Mick is justifiably getting a reputation for excellent day tours in the Granada area, he certainly has so many glowing testimonials now, why not join him for a day?
I met Rolf, Ann-Mari and Elsa Segerstedt at their Hotel in Granada and after a bit of a delay we headed out to the Cacín Valley. As soon as we pulled off the A92 Autovia we picked up a group of 6 Short-toed Eagles (Culebrera Europeo / Circaetus gallicus) were soaring away west. As we left the built-up sprawl of Moraleda several Thekla Larks (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Spotless Starlings (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor) and a pair of Black Wheatears (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura) were all seen. Further down the valley we took a track out to an area of agricultural fields where 39+ Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Ganga Ortega / Pterocles orientalis) put on a good aerial display when they were flushed by one of the farmer’s tractors. We dipped on the expected Little Bustards (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax) and Stone Curlew (Alcaraván Común / Burhinus oedicnemus) but picked up Calandra (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra) and Crested Larks (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata), Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis), Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus), Yellow Wagtails (Lavandera Boyera / Motacilla flava), Northern Wheatear (Collalba Gris / Oenanthe oenanthe), Tawny Pipit (Bisbita Campestris / Anthus campestris), Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops) and Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua). As we were leaving the site a small flock of Rock Sparrows (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia) were seen perched in some Almonds trees and down on the field.
We then moved on to the Embalse de Cacín, a feeder lake for the local irrigation system. Here there were large numbers of Common Pochard (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina), Shoveler (Cuchara Común / Anas clypeata), Mallard (Azulón Europeo / Anas platyhynchos), Common Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra), Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinula Chloropus) and 3x Common Teal (Cerceta Común / Anus crecca). Also out on the water were 20+ Little Grebes (Zapullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis) and a single immature Great Crested Grebe (Somormujo Lavanco / Podiceps cristatus). Three Grey Herons (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea) and a single Kingfisher (Martin Pescador / Alcedo atthis) were on the reedy fringes along with Cetti's (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti) and Reed Warblers (Carricero Común / Acrocephalus scirpaceus) and Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata). Other birds seen here included Great Spotted Woodpecker (Pico Picapinos / Dendrocopos major), a single Pallid Swifts (Vencejo Pálido / Apus pallidus), House (Avión Común / Delichon urbica) and Crag Martins (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris), Barn Swallows (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica), Azure-winged Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus), Common Magpies (Urraca / Pica pica), Water Rail (Rascón Europeo / Rallus aquaticus) was heard, Jay (Arrendajo / Garrulus glandarius), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Collared Doves (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto) and Spotted Flycatcher (Papamoscas Gris / Muscicapa striata).
Later we headed a little further along the valley and into the gorge, just as it started to rain we stopped at a site to look for Blue Rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius) and to get better views of Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris) both of which we got. As we climbed out of the car a grey looking falcon lifted from the crag below us and the immediate thought was it was a Peregrine but as soon as it banked around against the cliff it became apparent that it was an adult intermediate phase Eleonora's Falcon (Halcón de Eleonora / Falco eleonorae) a new species for me in the Province. The bird flew towards the opposite cliff up the face and headed off south. I have seen many of the falcons on Mallorca but it's very nice to catch up with one locally.
A little later we started to make our way back along the valley when Rolf picked up another falcon sitting in an Almond tree about 50 meters back from the road, this time it was a cracking male Merlin (Esmerejón / Falco columbarius). We then continued on back to Granada and to the Hotel.