Norfolk Birders

Norfolk Birdwatching and beyond!

Spain 2006

                Spain Trip Report                 


October 21st -27th 2006


Sue and Kathryn Bryan




Whilst reading my local RSPB magazine I came across a short article that was appealing for help. Jill Good [email protected] had recently set up some delightful holiday cottages in Andalucia and was asking for help identifying the birds around the area. I considered that I could help her and as it would be a golden opportunity to spend a few days with my daughter, I sent her an E-mail offering my services. The cottages are set in the hillside village of Mures, surrounded by olive groves, half an hour’s drive north of Granada in southern Spain.

















            Casa Antonio Holiday Cottage                                          Garden and Swimming Pool






                                                                 View from the terrace garden


Kathryn and I flew with Ryanair from Stansted to Granada, landing at 10pm. We had pre-booked a car through Hertz using the Ryanair web site as their office at Granada Airport stays open later at night than some of the other car-hire offices. We had a map book of Spain with us and following Jill’s instructions from her web site found the cottages without too much trouble (a pat on the back for my 18 year old daughter who was navigating in the dark!). Upon arrival we were met and made welcome as if we were old friends. During the week nothing was too much trouble for Jill and her daughter Hannah, who made our stay a delight.


Southern Spain in late October is still pleasantly warm, especially if the sky is clear. Mures is set in appealing rolling hills covered in olive groves and is easily accessed by good roads leading to many birding sites, if you are the type that likes peace and quiet and an opportunity to find your own birds. In late October most migrant birds have already found their way to Africa, but in Spring I would expect the area to be heaving with migrants as they pass their way through the area to northern climes.




Oct 22nd  Mures – Granada

Oct 23rd  Mures – Salobrena- Otivar

Oct 24th  Granada – Sierra Nevada

Oct 25th  Colomera – Granada

Oct 26th  Cordoba – Hornachuelos

Oct 27th  Mures – Colomera


Daily Log


22nd October


After breakfast, Kathryn and I walked the little lane to the next village but not before a Cetti’s Warbler had given us a rendition of his song from Jill’s back garden. Blackcaps were also scolding each other in the vegetation. House Sparrows were everywhere. I made a note that nearly all the houses had the old-fashioned pan-tiles, highly suitable for nesting! A Grey Wagtail kept us company for a while as it flitted along the stream side. A Stonechat sat on a bush as Crested Larks were singing everywhere as they ran in the furrows of the ploughed fields.


















                               Stonechat                                                            Crested Lark


It was a very pleasant warm day and as we scrambled down the hillside at the back of Jill’s property. After returning to the cottage we decided to head for a local reservoir (Embalse del Cubillas) via Colomera where Black Terns were busy diving in the water. Unfortunately we were soon joined by a jet-skier that scared off every bird around.





                                                                                     Embalse del Cubillas Granada


Upon returning to Mures we saw and heard a Serin singing. As I sat on the terrace of the cottage in the warm evening sipping wine, a Sparrowhawk came and perched in a tree in Jill’s garden.


23rd October


Parking at the end of the village of Mures by an old farm building a Hoopoe sat in a tree as Corn Buntings sang all around. Kathryn and I headed down to the coast to Salobrena taking the motorway from Granada. Kathryn spotted some Little Egrets in a roadside marshy area as we neared the coast road. Upon arrival Crag Martins flew over our heads as we walked down to the beach. A Stonechat joined us on a rocky outcrop as we sat watching Yellow-legged Gulls over the sea. Unfortunately the sun had disappeared and it was not warm enough to sit for too long.


Jill had recommended a scenic route through a valley at Otivar and up over the top of some picturesque craggy hills. A Sardinian Warbler hopped about in roadside bushes as we stopped to admire some wonderful scenery looking back towards the Mediterranean. Luckily the narrow road was deserted as we stopped once again to watch a Rock Bunting feeding at the roadside under a cliff edge. As we neared Mures I spotted my first couple of Azure-winged Magpies in the olive groves, but I was on a fast section of the busy main road and so was unable to stop.






                                                                                          Otivar Valley


24th October


We started the day at Embalse de Colomera, the reservoir en-route to Colomera where a Common Sandpiper and a Grey Heron were keeping the local Mallard Ducks company. Great Cormorants were sunning themselves as we headed for the gorge at Colomera. Rock Sparrows were sitting on the wires as hundreds of Crag Martins wheeled about our heads stopping to grip on the side of the gorge every so often.







                     Embalse de Colomera                                                                                                    The gorge at Colomera




Suddenly there was a noisy arrival of birds as dozens of Azure-winged Magpies alighted in the nearby trees. Taking photographs was difficult as they only perched momentarily before flying off again.






                                                                            Azure-winged Magpie  




After circum-navigating Granada on the excellent motorway we followed signs for the Sierra Nevada. We were soon on the twisting mountainous road that took us up to 2 500 metres high. The views were fantastic when we could see through the swirling clouds that shrouded us in mist intermittently. The temperature fell and we were glad of our coats. I could hear a Red-billed Chough calling but it was Kathryn that eventually located it soaring way above a craggy outcrop. A couple of Alpine Accentors seemed appropriate as we began to shiver in the wind.







        View of Sierra Nevada looking up from the car park………..and looking down.


Kathryn and I walked up the mountainside after parking the car and I was amazed as several Red Admiral butterflies whizzed by us, carried by the wind. Upon returning to the car we ventured down to the tree-line but only saw Chaffinches in the pine trees. We returned via the Embalse del Cubillas reservoir where I heard but did not see Red Crossbills.




25th October


This was designed to be a non-birdwatching day for my daughter to be able to shop in Granada and for us both to be able to visit the Alhambra. However we did see an Ortolan Bunting and a Common Kestrel as we left Mures. Near Colomera we added Short-toed Lark and Jay to the list. Jill kindly invited Kathryn and I to dinner with her and Hannah in the evening where we could discuss the birds that we had seen so far.


26th October


We headed north-west to the town of Cordoba where Kathryn spotted a dozen White Storks free-wheeling in the thermals. A Raven flew over the car calling noisily as we stopped to watch them. Near Hornachuelos we stopped to eat our sandwiches by the river as a Kingfisher flew down one of its tributaries. Chiffchaffs were fly-catching above our heads in the trees as Woodlarks flew from the fields. However we soon headed towards the reservoir at Hornachuelos to wait for raptors to appear.






                                                                                       The Reservoir at Hornachuelos


After waiting for a while watching a selection of feral ducks swimming on the water and a Grey Wagtail catching insects, several raptors appeared over the hillside. Up to ten Griffon Vultures could be seen well in the air together. Kathryn and I decided to see if we could find the track-way that would afford us closer views. Heading up the hill above Hornachuelos we soon found the start of the bumpy track. Unfortunately after a mile or so we found our way barred by a locked gate.


We returned to the riverside where a Willow Warbler and a Spotted Flycatcher were to be found in the over-hanging trees. Kathryn and I soaked up the sun and played ‘Pooh-Sticks’ on the bridge over the main course of the river when all of a sudden a Booted Eagle flew low over our heads, clearly investigating what we were doing.


27th October






                                                                                                        Cirl Bunting


As we were not flying home until the evening we decided that the best local birding site to the cottage was the gorge at Colomera where it was definitely worth another look. I could imagine in Spring it would be heaving in migrants. However Kathryn demanded a lie-in and so I was up at first light and wandered around the field at one end of the village. I added Mistle Thrush to the trip list and a small party of Spotless Starlings. Once I had managed to persuade Kathryn to get up, we headed to the gorge. A Cirl Bunting sat on an overhead wire by the reservoir as a Whinchat posed at the top of a bush. Driving through the gorge and taking a turning by the olive-oil factory at the bottom of the gorge I came across an area of loose scree and boulders. A couple of birds caught my eye at the top of the scree. The first turned out to be a Blue Rock Thrush and the second a Black Wheatear. As the wheatear was a tick for me it made a fitting last bird of the trip list!







      Blue Rock Thrush watching over the boulders                                                                Black Wheatear


Thanks go to Jill and Hannah for offering Kathryn and I a happy few days in Andalucia and for making us feel so welcome.


Systematic List


1.      Great Cormorant   8  Colomera Resevoir Granada 24/10/06, 10 there on 27/10

2.      Little Egret 3+ Salobrena 23/10/06

3.      Grey Heron 1 Colomera Resevoir Granada  24/10/06 and 2 there 27/10/06

4.      White Stork 12 Cordoba   26/10/06

5.      Mallard  a few on each of the reservoirs at Colomera, Granada and Hornachuelos 22-27/10/06

6.      Eurasian Griffon-vulture 10 Hornachuelos       26/10/2006

7.      Eurasian Sparrowhawk 1 Mures 22/10/06

8.      Booted Eagle  1 Hornachuelos 26/10/06

9.      Common Kestrel 1 Mures 25/10/06

10.  Red-legged Partridge 2 Granada 24/10/06

11.  Common Sandpiper 1 Colomera Resevoir      24/10/06

12.  Western Yellow-legged Gull        Salobrena    23/10/06

13.  Black Tern 6+ Embalse del Cubillas Resevoir Granada 22/10/06 and 24/10/06

14.  Eurasian Collared-dove  2 Granada 22/10/06

15.  Common Kingfisher 1 Hornachuelos     26/10/06

16.  Eurasian Hoopoe 1 Mures  23/10/06 1 Mures 25/10/06

17.  Short-toed Lark 1 Colomera 25/10/2006

18.  Crested Lark  common around Mures   22-27 /10/2006

19.  Wood Lark  8+ Hornachuelos 26/10/2006

20.  Eurasian Crag-martin Salobrena 23/10/2006 100+ at Colomera Gorge 24, 25 and 27/10/06

21.  Pied Wagtail small numbers most days Mures 22-27/10/06

22.  Grey Wagtail 1 Mures 22/10/2006 1 Hornachuelos 26/10/06

23.  Alpine Accentor 4 Sierra Nevada 24/10/06

24.  European Robin seen most days Mures 22-27/10/06

25.  Black Redstart 1 Otivar 23/10/06, 1 Mures 27/10/06, 1 Colomera Gorge 27/10/06

26.  Whinchat 1 Colomera 27/10/06

27.  Common Stonechat  Mures 22/10/06

28.  Black Wheatear 2 Colomera  27/10/06

29.  Blue Rock-thrush 2 Colomera 27/10/06

30.  Eurasian Blackbird   1 Colomera 24/10/06

31.  Mistle Thrush 1 Mures 27/10/06

32.  Cetti's Warbler seen or heard every day in Jill’s garden Mures 22-27/10/06

33.  Blackcap common in all scrub 22-27/10/06

34.  Sardinian Warbler 1 Otivar 23/10/06, 1 Mures 27/10/06

35.  Willow Warbler 2+ Hornachuelos 26/10/06

36.  Common Chiffchaff  2+ Hornachuelos 26/10/06

37.  Spotted Flycatcher 1 Hornachuelos 26/10/06

38.  Long-tailed Tit family group Mures 22/10/06

39.  Great Tit small numbers at Mures 25-27/10/06

40.  Blue Tit 2 Granada 25/10/2006

41.  Eurasian Jay 1 Colomera    25/10/06

42.  Azure-winged Magpie 2 Mures 23/10/06, 40+ Colomera Gorge 24/10/06, 10+ Granada 25/10/06

43.  Black-billed Magpie small numbers most days Mures         22-27/10/06

44.  Red-billed Chough   2 Sierra Nevada    24/10/06

45.  Eurasian Jackdaw     small numbers most days Mures 22-27/10/06

46.  Common Raven 1 Cordoba 26/10/2006

47.  Common Starling      common Mures     22-27 /10/2006

48.  Spotless Starling 12+ Mures 27/10/06

49.  House Sparrow common   around housing 22-27/10/06

50.  Rock Sparrow 2 Colomera 24/10/06

51.  Chaffinch common in pine forests around Granada 24/10/06

52.  European Serin 1 Granada 22/10/06

53.  European Greenfinch small numbers Mures 22-27/10/06

54.  European Goldfinch common 22-27/10/06

55.  Eurasian Linnet common around recently ploughed fields Mures 22-27/10/06

56.  Cirl Bunting 1 Colomera     27/10/06

57.  Rock Bunting  2 Otivar 23/10/06

58.  Ortolan Bunting 1 Mures    25/10/06

59.  Corn Bunting  small numbers around agricultural areas 23-27/10/06


60. Red Crossbill (heard only) Embalse de Cubillas 24/10/06




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