May 2014 – Cordoba

201405-dragonflyMay saw the Society’s first field visit to Cordoba Province with thirty members present representing all eight provinces other than Huleva and Jaen along with non-resident members who had either timed their Spanish visit to coincide with this meet or actually, in at least one case, made a special point of flying out to be with us; a truly impressive turn-out.  And none of us was to be disappointed.  The day was led by local Cordoba resident and member Florent Prunier who demonstrated not only his local birding knowledge but brought a wealth of expertise on the smaller creatures seen and discovered, those very many insects, bugs and other “creepy-crawlies” in general.  A much appreciated aspect of the day by those involved.

 The visit to the immediate countryside around the city of Cordoba 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 a 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.  201405--house-sparrowApproaching 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 Warblers.   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 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 at Sierrezuela de Villafranca 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 up the valley and away.  A number of Crested Larks and even Spotless Starlings were seen in the area.
201405-night-heronLeaving this site for our journey from Adamuz to our next stop at the higher river dam at Guadalmellato, we recorded both Azure-winged and (Common) Magpie.  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.

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.  201405-sardinian-warblerOvertaking 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 at San Rafael de Navallana we had another close view of a Black Kite.
PICTURE of Florent with bug
Caption:   Florent busy at work identifying a grasshopper, Ocnerodes prosternalis.

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 and after comparing the lists of those present it would seem that the group, as a whole, recorded a magnificent 57 species (see below) for a most interesting day.

Shelduck, Mallard, Red-Legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Night Heron, Cattle Egret,  Little Egret, White Stork, Red Kite, Black Kite, Griffon Vulture, Short-Toed Eagle, Golden Eagle, Bonelli’s Eagle, Booted Eagle, Buzzard, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Coot, Kentish Plover, Redshank, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Common Swift, Bee-Eater, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Red-Rumped Swallow, Nightingale, Stonechat, 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, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, And Corn Bunting.

Bob Wright – ABS Member