Buntings, Finches and Larks Galore.
We had got back what is our normally faithful little puddle jumping Fiesta back from the mechanics and decided to give it a test run up to the Sierra Nevada, after dropping Jayne for some last minute bits and pieces of shopping in the city I drove up to a site on the western slopes of the Sierra. The road up to the ski resort was fine but on the side routes the ice and snow was still quite a problem, so I spent a posterior twitching last 20 minutes of the drive going very slowly along some bendy sloping roads with considerable drops to the side to reach the site but it was well worth it. Most of the birds coming up will not get the blood pumping for the British birders but I was very pleased with some of them. As I choose an ice free and dry parking place a small flock of birds flew in and landed right in front of the car on a girt bank, as I scanned through them I counted at least 20 Woodlarks (Totovia / Lullula arborea), 15 Rock Sparrows (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia) and a single 1st winter male Yellowhammer (Escribano Cerillo / Emberiza citronella) a good start. Strolling further along the road I started to scan in and below an area of nut and fruit trees, there were loads of Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs) some really bright birds, Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis) and about 25 Brambling (Pizón Real / Fringilla montifringilla), with most of them being cracking males. A Green Woodpecker (Pito Real / Picus viridis) then flew across the road and into the same trees and the first large flock of Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra) seen flew over head and it must have contained at least 300 birds. On the flatter area at the highest point of the site I saw two female Spanish Ibex (Capra pyreaica hispanica), as I started to walk down the hill I past amongst berry laden Hawthorn bushes. As I walked between them thrushes exploded from their cover and flew off towards the fruit trees, there were several Redwings (Zorzal Alirrojo / Turdus iliacus), loads of Blackbirds (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Mistle (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus) and Song Thrushes (Zorzal Común / Turdus philomelos) but none of the hoped for Ring Ouzel (Mirlo Capiblanco / Turdus torquatus) which Juan Perez and his wife had seen a week ago. Good numbers of Rock Buntings (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia) were seen and photographed, also seen here were Long-tailed (Mito / Aegithalos caudatus), Great (Carbonero Común / Parus major) and Blue Tits (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus), Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica), Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus), Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), 20+ Jackdaws (Grajilla / Corvus monedula) and a couple of Jays (Arrendajo / Garrulus glandarius). On the walk back up the hill a small flock of about 12 Red-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) flew over calling and more Corn Bunting flocks past over, in total there must have been well over a 1000 of them in the small area I had covered. The finch / bunting list just kept growing, first came a nice male Hawfinch (Picogordo / Coccotraustes coccotraustes) which sat nicely in a leafless Walnut tree, then the second 1st winter male Yellowhammer, a small group of 5 Linnets (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina) and a few Serins (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus) flew up from the roadside and a party of 4 female and 2 male Cirl Buntings (Escribano Soteno / Emberiza cirlus) all perched up neatly on a small Cherry tree. As I reached the car again I still had the best part of an hour before I needed to get back down to the city so I just set the scope up on the road side and waited to see what turned up. A Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla) was the first species and quite unexpectedly it dropped down onto the ground and spent the next ten minutes scrambling around in the grass and scampering over rocks. More Rock Buntings and Woodlarks showed well and then an adult male Yellow hammer flew in to a small tree with a flock of about 30 Rock Sparrows, the Yellowhammer look as though it was in almost full breeding plumage. The last three and a half hours had shot by and it was time to drive back down to meet Jayne, the car had behaved well but the birds had performed even better. I had seen only about 30 species but 13 of them were Finches, Buntings or similar.
Photographs from the top: Yellowhammer (Escribano Cerillo / Emberiza citronella), View of the site, Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia), another View of the site, Hawfinch (Picogordo / Coccotraustes coccotraustes) and Cirl Bunting (Escribano Soteno / Emberiza cirlus).