An early start for Elena and I to meet Mick Richardson for a day out on his patch around Huetor Tajar and the Cacin Valley. We arrived at Cortija Tajar hotel where Mick was already having coffee and after some refreshments set off to drive around the agricultural areas behind Moraleda de Zafayona, taking in El Turro, Chimineas, La Malaha, Ventas de Huelma, and on to Cacin and the Valley.
It wasn't long before we spotted the first oh many Great Spotted Cuckoos. I only post one shot of the many I took. There were plenty of other birds to be seem including Green Woodpecker and Iberian Grey Shrike. The most exciting event however was a small group of 4 Black-bellied Sandgrouse amongst the newly planted almond trees. Although quite distant I did get a few recognisable photos of this hard to get species.
We paused to photograph a Hoopoe foraging aound on the ground beneath a large tree, seemingly unperturbed by our presence. This is quite a common bird in this part of the World but I always enjoy seeing Hoopoes as they are so exotic in appearance and was always a bird I admired in books as a boy.
Mick knew exactly where to find the numerous Little Owls that he sees on a regular basis. Sure enough there they were allowing us to get some decent shots.
Definitely the most unexpected sighting for me was the distant Iberian Imperial Eagle perched on a large pylon while being mobbed by a Black-winged Kite! Mick was familiar with this impressive raptor as it had been around for a while, amazing. We also spotted a Hen Harrier quartering the fields although it never got close enough for a photograph.
Other birds of note include Stone Curlew (Briefly), Marsh Harrier and Common Buzzard.
We saw more Great Spotted Cuckoos and I learned to recognise their call, somewhat like a demented Green Woodpecker is Mick's description. Not at all like the lovely sound of the much welcomed Common Cuckoo call of Spring.
Probably the bird of the day proved to be a lifer (in the wild) for me. The Long-eared Owl is seldom seen and is much sought after by birders. Mick is one of a few who know of this roost which we passed by and got fleeting glimpses of this magnificent bird through the branches of the tree that provided its cover. We did not linger for fear of spooking such a rarity and I promised not to post this on any social media for fear of bringing more people in so causing disturbance. It was a great sighting for me.
After the Cacin Valley we returned to a site near Huetor Tajar where Mick had recently been seeing a lovely male Penduline Tit. I was very keen to get a sighting and if possible a photograph as I have only ever had fleeting glimpses of this charming and quite elusive little bird. In the event we enjoyed prolonged and stunning views of this solitary handsome male as he flitted along the reeds of a dried up dyke. I was thrilled to get some very nice photos, some of which I post here.
What a great day it had been and once again many thanks to Mick for showing us some spectacular birds on and around his patch.
Retired seafarer living in Frigiliana, a white village in Malaga Province in southern Spain. Married to Elena. Keen bird and wildlife watchers.
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