Sunday, 9 May 2010

Sierra Loja and upper Cacín Valley, Granada Province.

The ABS weather jinx continues.

Well what a day, as
I arrived at the meeting place at Abades service area the skies either side of the sierra looked very black but the space over the hills were clear. As the time got nearer and the members of the Andalucian Bird Society started to arrive the sky took a turn for the worst and by the time we set off the drizzle had started, we had seen several Azure-winged Magpies (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus), House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer Domesticus) and Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor) before we left. By the time we reached the disuse quarry just above the town of Loja the heavens had opened but a few of us did get to see one of the adult Eagle Owl (Buho Real / Bubo bubo) sitting on the entrance to the nest platform. Some of the group used umbrellas to protect their scopes and to stay dry, I will deny it if anybody tells Peter or Pieter that I used one and I will hunt down any person who mentions that it had Pink and Purple hearts on it (it was Jayne honest).
Any way some of the brave members wandered into the quarry and quickly picked up a Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura), Red-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorx pyrrhocorax) and Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia). On the bank a single Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala) and Dartford Warbler (Curruca Rabilarga / Sylvia undata) were heard, while both Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica) and House Martin (Avión Común / Delichon urbica) fed low over the bank and Common Swift (Vencejo Común / Apus apus) flew over much higher. On the track back down from the quarry we saw Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis), Pink Mediterranean Catchfly (Silene colorata), Mediterranean Kidney Vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria), Cerastium boissieri, Dianthus Pungens, Hare's-tail Grass (Lagurus ovatus) and Omphalodes commutata. Once on the main track we started to head up the sierra but the cloud soon proved that we would be a complete waste of time, so we decided to make our way out to Moreleda to have a look at some near by agricultural land.
On the way we picked up European Bee-eater (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster), Crested Lark (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto), Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica) and Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris). Out on the fields Corn Buntings (Triguero / Emberiza calandra) were heard along with Crested and Calandra Larks (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra). Once through the almond plantation the first bird was a cracking male Little Bustard (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax) which did a splendid fly passed in front of us all. By the time we reached the ruin on the site the rain was again lashing down on the temperature had dropped considerably. Other species seen and heard here included Quail (Codorniz Común / Coturnix coturnix), Northern Wheatear (Collalba Gris / Oenanthe oenanthe) and Short-toed Lark (Terrera Común / Calandrella brachydactyla) but there was no sign of the Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Ganga Ortega / Pterocles orientalis). We then decided that the weather had done for us so a retreat for lunch in Huetor Tajar was the next stop. The rain continued but after lunch we decided to have a second attempt on the mountains, we dropped bob off at his car as he has a serious affliction, being a Chelsea fan and as they were playing at some point during the afternoon he had to leave early to get home for the TV. The rest of us set off and called at a small disused quarry where we picked up Red-rumped Swallow (Golondrina Dáurica / Hirundo daurica), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus) and a nice singing male Cirl Bunting (Escribano Soteno / Emberiza cirlus). Further along the track a couple of Rock Sparrows (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia) were feed below the Pine trees, Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator) was seen well in a sapling and a Great Tit (Carbonero Común / Parus major) called loudly. Firecrest (Reyezuelo Listado / Regulus ignicapillus) and Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla) were heard in the pines but our strict (cruel) list keeper Elle will only allow birds seen to be counted. We then returned to the quarry and the owl was this time seen briefly by most of the group as it flew around for a moment after being harassed by a Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus). A male Blue Rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius) flew down the slope and Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata) perched up giving good views. We then headed up on to the higher areas of the sierra picking up several Black-eared Wheatears (Collalba Rubia / Oenanthe hispanica), more Red-billed Chough, Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula), Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua) and Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops). There were a few clumps of the Upland Peony (Paeonia coriacea) in flower along with Viola dementria, Navelwort (Umbilicus rupestrs) and Southern Wild Tulip (Tulipa sylvestris ssp australis). The rear two cars managed to see a male Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush (Roquero Rojo / Monticola saxatilis) through the mist. At Charca del negro several more Rock Sparrows and a male Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros) were seen. Just as we were making our way down the weather started to break and we saw the first sun of the day, two Griffon Vultures (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus), Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa) and Raven (Cuervo / Corvus corax) were added. On the slopes in front of the main crags a single female type Spanish Ibex (Capra pyreaica hispanica) was seen. We then returned to the owl site and the bird was sat out in the open nicely when we arrived but this was just as two Spanish gents were making their way down of the hill and the bird moved out of site as they passed below the crag. We then returned to the car park and made our ways home.
Photographs from the top: Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis), Omphalodes commutata, Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua), Southern Wild Tulip (Tulipa sylvestris ssp australis), Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush (Roquero Rojo / Monticola saxatilis) and Spanish Ibex (Capra pyreaica hispanica.

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