Ending up my day early at work, I was really looking forward to discovering yet a new place in Andalucia, a town called Cabra in the Córdoba Province. The November edition of the Andalucia Bird Society took place there, hosted by the known local bird watching guide, and a great animal and nature lover, Antonio Pestana. I was equally excited as my dear friend, Krzysztof (not to be mistaken as ‘Tristan’) visited me that week, and we planned joint birdwatching and road tripping around Andalucia in search of the rare species shortly after the Field Meeting.
I was particularly intrigued by the evening activity, which started off around the dusk, when Antonio greeted about 10 ABS members in the Hotel Mitra Crisalida, and guided us to the location near the Cross of Aben Abad, known for the presence of the Eagle Owl, alongside with the Little Owl, and Barn Owl. As the sun and the temperature was going down, the owls started off their chants. Antonio Pestana shared then really fun onomatopoeic stories about the owls in Spanish, calling the Little Owl the most selfish animal (singing ‘mio, mio, mio’ all the time), and the bargaining dialogue between the Barn Owls (‘voy, voy’ = ‘I go, I go’) and Nighjars (‘paga, paga, paga’ = ‘pay, pay, pay’) in the summer. Apart from the owl sounds, we could notice large flocks of Songthrushes which are sadly subject to hunting activity around this time of the year, as well as Starlings. When the sun went down we could briefly see the owls taking off to hunt for their prey but most of the ABS members, used to the summer temperatures, were freezing cold as the European cold stream was notable in Cabra, too!
In the evening some of the ABS members met up for a dinner, and some, like myself, went to discover the wonders of Cabra, which is a very interesting town full of tapas bars, stunning castle, churches and squares. Funnily enough the name ‘Cabra’ does not come from the Spanish name for a ‘goat’ but for one of the Moorish founders, Al-Qabri. The town has been heavily destroyed during the Civil War in Spain but thankfully, preserved its rich history and Moorish influences. As a sightseeing bonus, on the way back to the hotel, I even spotted a Little Owl hanging around a road sign! Too bad it was too dark to take a picture of her.
In the morning, we met up for breakfast and greeted familiar and new ABS faces before we headed off to Bailon River Canyon. It was extremely cold for most of us, so I felt grateful to myself for bringing a pair of gloves, and a winter hat. Down by the Canyon, we could mostly spot Starlings and an interesting Iberian Orix family. They seemed to be ready for mating or fighting, who knows. The spot was stunning itself and we could also see some birds of prey from the distance.
Our next stop was set around the road to Cueva de los Murcielagos, passing by a picturesque town of Zuheros, nominated as the one of the most beautiful White Villages in Spain. There we left off our cars for a short walk where we could greet the pair of Griffon Vultures from a close up location, as well as Stonechats, Common Redstarts and Robins. We were particularly curious about the beautiful bird, a Black Wheatear which is a special friend and specialty sighting of Antonio Pestana.
To meet up with the Black Wheatears, we moved on from that location to Cabra South, nearby the emblematic Balcón de Andalucia, Ermita Virgen de la Sierra and followed Antonio to his special spot for Black Wheatears. They did not seem to pass by for a long period of time, yet we could see Red Kite and Griffon Vultures once again. When we almost gave up on the Black Wheatear’s sighting, they suddenly appeared, posing to our photographs with their beautiful black tails with a white spot. We also enjoyed greatly them calling each other and hanging around a close up location.
Happy about the sightings, stunning locations and a great guidance of Antonio Pestana, we all cheered with a glass of vino fino, produced by Antonio’s family and moved to a local venta for lunch. The afternoon activities were dedicated to the Barn Owl Project which I sadly missed, as I moved on to another location, in search of more birds that afternoon.