We set off for the 3 hour drive to a site in Sierra Morena at an unearthly hour of the morning to try and catch up with the extremely rare Pardel Lynx (Lince Ibérico / Lynx pardina). We started to approach the site just as the dawn was breaking and the car lights on the frost indicated that the road was a bit slippery. During the slow drive we picked up several Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) and a few Rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) but little else. Once at the prime site we set up the chairs and waited for the sun to come up over the mountains, almost immediately a 1st winter Spanish Imperial Eagle (Aguila Imperial Ibérica / Aguila adalberti) flew almost over head and landed in a tree on a ridge a few hundred meters away and was mobbed by the local Common Magpies (Urraca / Pica pica) as soon as it touched down. A mini bus then pulled up and out climbed the noisiest group of French so call naturalist I have ever heard in my life. Banging doors, laughing and talking as loud as possible they soon made sure that the chances of seeing anything, let alone the Lynx were doomed. Once they had set up their equipment things did not get any better as they continued to make a racket and when one of them nearly launched John’s scope down the bank words were exchanged and the error of their ways explained, things fortunately quickly quietened down. Things then started to appear including Dartford Warbler (Curruca Rabilarga / Sylvia undata), Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricapilla), several Green Woodpeckers (Pito Real / Picus viridis) could be heard calling all day and good numbers of Hawfinch (Picogordo / Coccotraustes coccotraustes) flew over giving the distinctive high pitched note. A second Spanish Imperial Eagle then flew along the ridge, this time it was a cracking adult with a bulging crop. Sharon stayed by the car and John and myself had a wander along the track, passing a few other observers on the way. Several wildflowers were seen including two species of Narcissus, Common Jonquil (Narcissus jonquilla) and the beautiful Angles Teardrops (Narcissus triandrus ssb pallidulus) and Iberian Milk-vetch (Astragalus lusitanicus ssp lusitanicus). A pair of Dunnocks (Acentor Común / Prunella modularis), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris) and Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis) were all added to the day’s species. A large raptor was the picked up and this was soon identified as our second Golden Eagle (Águila Real / Aquila chrysaetos) in two days, it circled in our view for a 15 minute before drifting off to be replaced by another adult Imperial. John set off back to the car and I took a few minutes to get some shots of the Narcissus on the way back, whist doing this I had a chat with a group of the lads at the site and they mentioned that there had been a Wallcreeper (Treparriscos / Tichodroma muraria) at a site nearby. Armed with the direction it seem like too good an opportunity to miss, so I left John and Sharon looking for the lynx and went to check the site out. I parked the car and within 15 seconds I had picked up the Wallcreeper in flight along the crags and had some great views of this fantastic bird, a new species for my Andalucía list. I went back up to the main site and John and Sharon returned back to the cliffs and we managed to relocate the bird feeding while on a large man made stone wall and watched it for at least half an hour before it flew higher and out of sight. We then went back to the Lynx watching but stopped a few hundred yards before our usual spot, parked up and started to have a chat with a Spanish chap that was there. He knew an awful lot about the individual Lynx recorded in the area and gave us a great tip of watching the rock crags behind us. Whilst chatting, a pair of Great Spotted Cuckoos (Crialo Europeo / Clamator gladarius) flew around calling nosily and were later joined by at least one more bird. The temperature had risen and the sun enticed good numbers of Vultures into the air, there were dozens of Griffon Vultures (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus) and several Blacks (Buitre Negro / Aegypius monachus) all of which soon drifted off along the distant ridges. John then picked up three male Mouflon (Ovis orientalis) sitting on the tops of some distant rocks, they are introductions at the site for the hunting fraternity. The time was now going on and I was feeling less and less confident of seeing the target species. John then picked up another Spanish Imperial Eagle in front of us but for some reason I looked in totally the other direction and there they were, a pair of Lynx, the female sat out on top of a crag about 100 meters away. The male dropped down the instant we saw it but the female sat there for a full minute giving the most fantastic views through the scopes. She then disappeared as the crowds from further along arrived. They all continued further around the corner of the track hoping for views and for the first time all day we were grateful for the big mouths of the French group because we could tell from the noise being made several 100 meter away up the track they had got the Lynx again. John and Sharon went on ahead and I packed up the kit and followed on. Both animals were jumping and walking around in full view on the rear of the crags. What a way to end what had already been a great day. Other species seen during the day included Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia), Long-tailed (Mito / Aegithalos caudatus) and Crested Tit (Herrerillo Capuchino /Parus cristatus), Azure-winged Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus), Woodlark (Totovia / Lullula arborea), Blue Rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius), Barn (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica) and Red-rumped Swallows (Golondrina Dáurica / Hirundo daurica) and loads more.
Photographs from the top: View of the area, Angles Teardrops (Narcissus triandrus ssb pallidulus), Common Jonquil (Narcissus jonquilla), a bad shot of the Wallcreeper (Treparriscos / Tichodroma muraria), Group watching the Lynx and Two very happy people, John and Sharon.