Migrants and a returning visitor.
I picked Paul up just off the A92 at Moraleda, the second time we have spent a day birding. The clouds were looking a little on the dodgy side so we first had a look at the small Laguna called Balsa de Regidor, here we started by seeing good numbers of Common Pochard (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina), Northern Shoveler (Cuchara Común / Anas clypeata) and Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), all on the far less disturbed shore of the pool. A single Black-headed Gull (Gaviota Riedora / Larus ridibundus), several Little Grebes (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis), Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra) and Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinula Chloropus) were also on the water. The only wader seen was a vocal Common Sandpiper (Andarrios Chico / Actitis hypoleucos) which was flushed from the pools main outlet stream. On the weeds along the entrance track we picked up the first of quite a few Whinchat’s (Tarabilla Nortena / Saxicola rubetra) along with Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica), Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto), House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer Domesticus) and Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula). Our next area was the fields to the north of Huetor Tajar, Crested Larks (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata) were everywhere, a few Cattle Egrets (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis) followed a ploughing tractor and in a small area of reeds along side one of the irrigation channels we added Reed Warbler (Carricero Común / Acrocephalus scirpaceus), Cetti’s Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti), Zitting Cisticola (Buitrón / Cisticola juncidis), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris) and a fine male Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata). On a newly cut Lucerne field large numbers of Yellow Wagtails (Lavandera Boyera / Motacilla flava) were feeding along with a few Whites (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba). A couple of Tree Sparrows (Gorrión Molinero / Passer Montanus) were perched on the fence around a rather smelly goat pen and a single Green Sandpiper (Andarrios Grande / Tringa ochropus) flew up the dry river. A large flock of at least 70+ Azure-winged Magpies (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus) were seen raiding one of the unnetted Fig trees growing out in the fields, several Spotless Starlings (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor) also feasted on the fruits.
Sierra de Loja was our next port of call, the quarry just above the town was deserted and the crags were not much better. Once we were up on the tops we did start to pick up birds including several Thekla Larks (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis) and Tawny Pipit (Bisbita campestre / Anthus campestris). The stars were a cracking family party of Rufous-tailed Rock Thrushes (Roquero Rojo / Monticola saxatilis) which showed well near the paragliding turn. Rock Sparrows (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia) showed well at several spots on the drive to the goat cave as did Red-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia), Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros) and Blue Rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius). On the way down a flock of hirundines were feeding low down amongst the pines trying to stay out of the wind, Crag (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris) and House Martins (Avión Común / Delichon urbica) and Red-rumped Swallows (Golondrina Dáurica / Hirundo daurica) were all seen. A single Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus) and several Common Crossbills (Piquituerto Común / Loxia curvirostra) were added to the day list. Two flowers were seen in bloom whilst we were near the Charca del Negra, Merendera pyrenaica covered an area near the pool and Erodium cheilanthifolium clung to several rocks near the goat cave.
We then drove back towards and through Moraleda to the crags on the El Turro road, here at least 3 Black Wheatears (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura) showed well but distantly on the rocks, along with Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala) and Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs). In the air we picked up a pale phase Booted Eagle (Aguililla Calzada / Hieraaetus pennatus) and a Sparrowhawk (Gavilán Común / Accipiter nisus). The only butterflies of the day were also seen here, 3 or 4 Bath Whites (Pontia daplidice). In the pines on our way up to the agricultural area above the valley we heard and saw Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus), Great (Carbonero Común / Parus major) and Coal Tits (Carbonero Garrapinos / Parus ater). On the fields there were large groups of migrating Yellow Wagtails (Lavandera Boyera / Motacilla flava), a flock of at least 70 Short-toed Larks (Terrera Común / Calandrella brachydactyla), Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis), several Lesser Kestrels (Cernicola Primilla / Falco naumanni), Northern Wheatear (Collalba Gris / Oenanthe oenanthe) and a male Hobby (Alcotán Europeo / Falco subbuteo) which flashed past quickly heading south. We then headed back to the starting point where Paul’s wife and other members of his family were waiting for him.
Photographs from the top: Erodium cheilanthifolium, Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops) and Paul watching the migrating Wagtails.