Picking up the summer migrants.
After finding out that there are at least two and probably many more bus stations/stops for the buses from Granada I found Andy Mounteford out side one of the hotels on the by-pass. We then made our way up the bumpy but fairly good conditioned tracks to Sierra de Loja and Gorda. Several spikes of Giant Orchid (Barlia robertiana) were the first things of interest to be seen, quickly followed by Yellow Bee Orchid (Ophrys lutea). The small quarry on the way gave us views of a pair of Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura), several Serins (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus) were singing from the rock faces along with a single Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes) and Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros). Out on the slopes below the quarry a cracking male Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator) was seen perched in one of the many Hawthorn bushes, Sardinian Warblers (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala) sang from the Gorse, Common Crossbill (Piquituerto Común / Loxia curvirostra) chipped loudly from the Pines and a Short-toed Eagle (Culebrera Europeo / Circaetus gallicus) drifted over West. We then moved on up through the pines where several Azure-winged Magpies (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus), about 25 were seen. The next stop was along the crags but these were covered in climbers much to the alarm of the local Red-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) and Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula) populations. In the same area we picked up Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina), Crested Lark (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata), Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa) and Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus) were added to the list. Up on the tops we soon started to pick up some brightly plumage male Black-eared (Collalba Rubia / Oenanthe hispanica) about 20 were seen in total and a few Northern Wheatears (Collalba Gris / Oenanthe oenanthe), Rock Buntings (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia) were common place as were Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae). On the rocks piled up by the Goat and Sheep herders to allow more grass to grow three or more Little Owls (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua) were seen warming up in the bright sunshine. We then arrived at Charca de Negro, a small pool at about 1200m where we saw several Sharp-ribbed Newts (Pleurodeles waltl) and good numbers of what I think were Natterjack Toads (Bufo calamita). There were several more Black Redstarts and Black-eared Wheatears on the rocks and a pale phase Booted Eagle (Aguililla Calzada / Hieraaetus pennatus) passed over high. On the ledges good numbers of the uncommon Narcissus Bugei were in bloom. We moved further on and came into an area dominated by male Blue Rock Thrushes (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius) at least four cold be seen displaying here and another two were seen near the goat cave. Several Red-billed Chough were seen carrying nesting materials in to the cave and could be heard calling all around the site. A very Rufous looking Common Buzzard (Busardo Ratonero / Buteo buteo) passed between the wind turbines and on North followed by large numbers of Hirundines and Swifts. On the track towards Salar a pair of Bonelli's Eagles (Aguila-azor Perdicera / Hieraaetus faciatus) were picked up but by the time we stopped only the male could be see but it gave us some very good views. Flocks of Swifts could be seen moving through, including Alpine (Vencejo Real / Apus melba), Common (Vencejo Común / Apus apus) and Pallid Swifts (Vencejo Pálido / Apus pallidus). Also seen were Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricapilla), Blue Tit (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus), Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita), Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris), Great Tit (Carbonero Común / Parus major), Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops), Meadow Pipit (Bistita Común / Anthus pratensis), Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus), Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa), Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor) and Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus). We then started to make our way back down the hill and towards Villanueva Mesia where we had a look along a short section of the Rio Cacín just as it flows into the Rio Genil. The first birds seen were Cetti’s Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti), Hawfinch (Picogordo / Coccotraustes coccotraustes) and Great Spotted Woodpecker (Pico Picapinos / Dendrocopos major), quickly followed by a calling Wryneck (Torcecuello / Jynx torquilla) which obligingly sat out on a poplar branch and preened for several minutes. We also picked up Grey Wagtail (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea), Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita) and another Wren here. On the way up to our house we stopped by one of the Lucerne fields near Huetor Tajar where we found just a single male Little Bustard (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax) in full breeding plumage, along with a good number of Yellow Wagtails (Lavandera Boyera / Motacilla flava). Whilst we sat having a drink and a chat at the house a small flock of 5 European Bee-eaters (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster) flew over low, the first of the year. Later we went up to a small Sierra behind Loja hoping for views of a pair of Eagle Owls (Buho Real / Bubo bubo) that breed there. We did not see or even hear them as I think we were a little early in the evening. We did pick up a Sparrowhawk (Gavilán Común / Accipiter nisus) and a calling Great Spotted Cuckoo (Crialo Europeo / Clamator gladarius). In a small patch of grass land along side the track we identified 8 species of orchid, Small Early Purple (Orchis Mascula ssp Olbiensis), Conical (Orchis conicia), Italian Man (Orchis italica), Giant (Barlia robertiana), Yellow Bee (Ophrys lutea), Mirror (Ophrys speculum), Sawfly (Ophrys tenthredinifera) and Dull Bee Orchids (Ophrys fusca). During the day several species of butterfly were noted, these included Bath White (Pontia daplidice), Clouded Yellow (Colias crocea), Moroccan Orange Tip (Anthocharis belia) and Small White (Artogeia rapae).
Photographs from the top: Viola dementria, Charca de Negra, Narcissus bugei and the moon over Sierra de Loja.