Friday 16 April 2010

Grazalema area, Cadiz and Malaga Provinces.

Heather and Cath, Day Two, amongst the Orchids.

Small Woodcock Orchid (Ophrys picta).
I picked Heather and Cath up again in Loja and we headed into what looked like a very wet Ronda area. The rain was pouring when we arrived so we had a coffee and made the decision to head to the furthest point and do the days route in reverse. Firstly we pulled off the road just north of Ronda and had a distant view of a Bonelli's Eagle (Aguila-azor Perdicera / Hieraaetus faciatus) sat on its nest. 
Honeywort (Cerinthe major).
Our second stop was in a very old Olive grove just off the side of the Zahara to Grazalema road beside the lake. The site gets a rough ploughing every few years but this does not seem to affect the Orchids which grow here too much. We soon found all three colour forms of the Small Woodcock Orchid (Ophrys picta) the seples are Pink (most common), White or Green (most uncommon). 
The spikes of Giant Orchids (Himantoglossum robertiana) were all over with but we also found several spikes of Yellow Bee (Ophrys lutea), Mirror Orchids (Ophrys speculum sub speculum) and good numbers of Small-flowered Serapias (Serapias parviflora) all of which were in good condition. We then moved on and started the drive up over the mountain from Zahara to Grazalema; we soon made our first stop on the side of the road where we photographed Honeywort (Cerinthe major), Blue Alkanet (Anchusa azurea), Fedia (Fedia cornucopiae), Intermediate Periwinkle (Vinca difformis) and Field Gladiolus (Gladiolus italicus). 
Champagne Orchids (Orchis champagneuxii).
A small group of Griffon Vultures (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus) passed over quite high in what was fortunately a clearing sky, followed closely by a noisy group of Red-billed Choughs (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax). Moving on up the hill we started to find more Orchids including Italian Man (Orchis italica), Lange’s Orchid (Orchis langei), Southern Early Purple (Orchis olbiensis), Dull-bee (Ophrys fusca) and Dense-flowered Orchids (Neotinea maculata), the latter was not Quite in flower. On the rocks near the top viewpoint a great many flowering Spanish Bluebells (Scilla hispanica), Southern Knapweed (Centaurea pullata subsp pullata), Linaria platycalyx, Candytuft (Iberis crenata), Yellow Anemone (Anemone palmate) and Mallow-leaved Bindweed (Convolvulus althaeoides) were seen. 
At the viewpoint we saw more Vultures, Choughs and added Bonelli’s Warbler (Mosquitero Papialbo / Phylloscopus bonelli), Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia), Booted Eagle (Aguililla Calzada / Hieraaetus pennatus) and Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes). On the way down the other side of the ridge dropping in to the town of Grazalema we started to see a few spikes of the Afro-Iberian endemic Ornithogalum reverchonii and Meadow Saxifrage (Saxifraga granulataSaxifraga granulata) were in flower along with a still to be confirmed Saxifrage species.
We then called in at the Information / Visitors centre on the main car park in Grazalema to pick up a few bits and pieces. We meet Clive in the car park and then had a look inside. Cath bought a couple of books and I picked up a couple of maps.
Algarve Bee Orchid (Ophrys algarviensis).
The next stop was at La Rana a few Kms further on towards Ronda, after scrambling under the electric fence and then over the bolder and wire fence a little further across. There were large swaths of Champagne Orchids (Orchis champagneuxii) including two spikes of a completely white variant. Four spikes of Pink Butterfly Orchid (Orchis papilionacea) looked very smart amongst a great many Champagne Orchids and the hybrid between the two Orchis x gennarii. Sawfly (Orchis tenthredinifera) and another Ophrys species which I originally thought was Ophrys dyris but after consulting the new orchid book and seeing a species in there I am sure it is actually Algarve Bee Orchid (Ophrys algarviensis). We then pushed on to wards the Montejaque loop passing several spikes of Sword-leaved Helleborine (Cephalanthera longifolia), Bushes of Grey-leaved (Cistus albidus), Gum (Cistus ladanifer) and White Cistus (Cistus salvifolius) and a couple of spikes of Spanish Iris (Iris xiphium). We next made a stop at a grassland area along the road to Montejaque, here we found the usual Yellow Bee and Mirror Orchids plus an unexpected spike of Pink-butterfly Orchid. We also picked up Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Crested Lark (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala) and Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica). In the crags area we picked up a few Chough, Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris) and heard Iberian Green Woodpecker (Pito Real / Picus sharpei). Here we also found several Man Orchids (Aceras anthropophorum) growing on the tops of the road side rocks.
Pink Butterfly Orchid (Orchis papilionacea).
We moved on around the loop and stopped at the Cave of the cat but could not get there as the bridge had been badly damaged. A single Alpine Swift (Vencejo Real / Apus melba) was seen to fly into the cave, large numbers of Crag and House Martins (Avión Común / Delichon urbica) filled the sky along with a passing flock of about 30 European Bee-eaters (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster) and a Cetti’s Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti). We then made our way home via Supersol in Ronda.

Wednesday 14 April 2010

Arroya Marin, Laguna Dulce, Sierra's Teba and Loja, Malaga and Granada Province.

Heather and Cath Day one, Lagoons and mountains.

Intermediate Perriwinkle (Vinca difformis).
The plan had been to go up Torcal near Antequera but as we got closer we soon realized that this was not going to be a good choise as there was a thick layer of cloud covering the ridge. So we made a quick about turn and headed a short way back down the motorway to the Arroya Mirin just to the south of the town of Archidona. The site is a narrowish valley with a woodland line stream, Cistus scrub, broad-leaved and Pine Woods edged in with some nice crags. As soon as we got out of the car several Nightingales (Ruisenor Común / Luscinia megarhynchos) were singing from the track side trees and a distant Wryneck (Torcecuello / Jynx torquilla) called somewhere down the valley. 
Bath White (Pontia daplidice).
On the back along the side of the track good numbers of Yellow Bee (Ophrys lutea) and Mirror Orchid (Ophrys speculum) were in flower along with Tassel Hyacinth (Muscari comosum), White Mignonette (Reseda Alba), Intermediate Perriwinkle (Vinca difformis) and Meadow Saxifrage (Saxifraga granulata). The valley opens out about half way down and there are some nice meadows where there were many more of the two species of Orchid mentioned above.
Several species of butterfly were seen while we were in the meadows including Bath White (Pontia daplidice), Cleopatra (Gonepteryx cleopatra), Clouded Yellow (Colias crocea), Provence Orange-tip (Anthocharis euphenodes) and Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui). 
The distinctive call of European Bee-eater (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster) rang out from high above as a small flock of birds moved north and lower down the startling rattle of a Cetti’s Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti) blasted from the stream side bushes. Barn (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica) and Red-rumped Swallows (Golondrina Dáurica / Hirundo daurica) along Crag (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris) and House Martins (Avión Común / Delichon urbica) were also hawking for food above the valley. 
Great Crested Grebe (Somormujo Lavanco / Podiceps cristatus).
Further down the river we heard a second and third Wryneck calling and found several spikes of the not so exiting Man Orchid (Aceras anthropophorum) under the Pines. We made our back adding Long-tailed (Mito / Aegithalos caudatus) and Coal Tits (Carbonero Garrapinos / Parus ater), Iberian Green Woodpecker (Pito Real / Picus sharpei) and Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus).
We then moved on to Laguna Dulce where we picked up a couple of White-headed Ducks (Malvasia Cabeciblanca / Oxyura leucocephala) both females, Gadwall (Anade Friso / Anas strepera), Common Pochard (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina), Northern Shoveler (Cuchara Común / Anas clypeata), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos) and a small group of Shelduck (Tarro Blanco / Tadoma tadorna). On the shore line several Kentish Plover (Chorlitejo Patinegro / Charadrius alexandrinus), Black-winged Stilts (Ciguenuela Común / Himantopus himantopus) and Northern Lapwing (Avefria Europea / Vanellus vanellus) were seen feeding amongst the plentiful Greater Flamingo (Flamenco Común / Phoenicopterus ruber). 
Black-winged Stilt (Ciguenuela Común / Himantopus himantopus).
Also out on the water we picked up Little (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis), Black-necked (Zampullín Cuellinegro / Podiceps nigricollis) and Great Crested Grebes (Somormujo Lavanco / Podiceps cristatus), one of the later was try it best to swallow a Sharp-ribbed Salamander. Over the area good numbers of Gull-billed (Pagaza Piconegra / Gelochelidon nilotica) and a single Whiskered Tern (Fumarel Cariblanca / Chlidonias hybridus) were noted along with both Pallid (Vencejo Pálido / Apus pallidus) and Common Swift (Vencejo Común / Apus apus). We then went around some of the other lagoons near by but did not add anything except for a male White headed Duck.
Later at Sierra de Teba we managed a single Griffon Vulture (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus) and several Red-billed Choughs (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) along the crags. Also seen here were European Bee-eater, Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), Crag Martin and Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus). 
Viola dementria.
On the way home we had a quick look in at Sierra Loja and in the small disused Quarry we soon located the Eagle Owl (Buho Real / Bubo bubo) which was sitting out on the edge of the nest platform. We also added Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia), Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula), Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua), Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris) and Iberian Green Woodpecker (Pito Real / Picus sharpei). Several plants were seen around the site including Viola dementria, Southern Wild Tulip (Tulipa sylvestris ssp australis), Yellow Bee Orchid (Ophrys lutea), Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum) and Intermediate Perriwinkle.

Tuesday 13 April 2010

Cabo de Gata, Almeria Province.

Day Three, Back to the birds. 

Basalt area.
The last day was to be spent at Cabo de Gata and surrounding area, the first stop was at the visitors centre at Los Amoladeras, the displays were very good and took quite a while to look around. 
Out side the number of birds was disappointing, Crested Lark (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata), Northern Wheatear (Collalba Gris / Oenanthe oenanthe) and Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator). We then move down to the salt pans where there were a lot more birds to be seen. 
Group shot.
From the hide we picked up good numbers of Greater Flamingo’s (Flamenco Común / Phoenicopterus ruber), the beautiful Slender-billed Gulls swam elegantly around the pools with a couple of summer plumaged Mediterranean Gull (Gaviota Cabecinegra / Larus melanocephalus). Waders were there in good numbers including Avocet (Avoceta Común/ Recurvirostra avosetta), Black-winged Stilt (Ciguenuela Común / Himantopus himantopus), Common Redshank (Archibebe Común / Tringa totanus), Greenshank (Archibebe Claro / Tringa nebularia) and Kentish Plover (Chorlitejo Patinegro / Charadrius alexandrinus). 
Cynomorium (Cynomorium coccineum).
We then made our way along a road passed the Lighthouse to an area of rocks which looked like smaller version of the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland; I think that they are hexagonal columns of basalt. The ground was covered in wild flowers including Convolvulus tricolor, Convolvulus siculus, Silene littorea and Seaside Daisy (Asteriscus maritimus). 
We then dropped back down to the Lighthouse where we had lunch and I found that I could not be dragged away from the birds on the saltpans. So I said a reluctant goodbye to what were a very very nice and interesting group of people.
Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae).
They set off for a few more days geology and I had a cracking afternoon birding around the track on the far side of the Pans. I have seen Slender-billed Gull (Gaviota picofina / Larus genei) but to watch over 250 birds in one flock in what looked like a feeding frenzy. A small number of Audouin's Gulls (Gaviota de Audouin / Larus audouinii) were perched out on the low banks along with a few Sandwich (Charrán Patinegro / Sterna sandvicensis), Gull-billed (Pagaza Piconegra / Gelochelidon nilotica) and Whiskered Terns (Fumarel Cariblanca / Chlidonias hybridus). 
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Waders were also feeding on these ridges including Sanderling (Correlimos Tridáctilo / Calidris alba), Ruddy Turnstone (Vuelvepiedras Común / Arenaria interpres), Ringed Plover (Chorlitejo Grande / Charadrius hiaticula), Little Ringed Plover (Chorlitejo Chico / Charadrius dubius), Greenshank (Archibebe Claro / Tringa nebularia), Black-winged Stilt (Ciguenuela Común / Himantopus himantopus) and Avocet (Avoceta Común/ Recurvirostra avosetta). 
Kentish Plover (Chorlitejo Patinegro / Charadrius alexandrinus).
On the margins Crested Lark (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata) and Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra) were very common, they were joined by the odd Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator) and Black-eared Wheatear (Collalba Rubia / Oenanthe hispanica). 
Growing in the saline soils there was the most pacular parasitic plant called Cynomorium (Cynomorium coccineum), quite common along the track edges. Towards the far end of the track I started to see a few small groups of Lesser Short-toed Larks (Terrera Marismena / Calandrella rufescens) along with a couple of Hoopoes (Abubilla / Upupa epops). 
Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra.
Back near the visitors centre a small flock of European Bee-eaters (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster) were perched in some Shrub Tobacco (Nicotiana glauca) plants trying to stay out of the wind which was by now blasting the area. The rain then started so I began the journey home.

Monday 12 April 2010

Near Nijar and Sierra Alhamilla, Almeria Province.

Day Two, Garnets and Rocks.

Linda giving a brief in the Volcano.
-->The day started with a drive down to El Hoyazo near Nijar and a rumble up a couple of dirt tracks to reach the site of a small dormant volcano. On the area below the parking spot a couple of European Bee-eaters (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster) were seen hawking around some sand pit areas. We then walked up a trail to the top of a valley where the edge of the volcano was defined by some messinian reef development (Almost sounds as though I know some thing about what I am writing doesn’t it, just repeating what Linda had written). 
Garnets in Rock.
On the way up the ground was covered in a fine red gravel of Garnets, some quite large ones. Other minerals found included samples of sillimanite (white and feathery) and cordierite (blue/grey). On the return walk we picked up Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura), Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops), Black-eared Wheatear (Collalba Rubia / Oenanthe hispanica) and Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator).
Group in the Sierra.
We then spent some time in Nijar where we got some lunch items and headed out to the Sierra Alhamilla, at the first site Nightingale (Ruisenor Común / Luscinia megarhynchos) and Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra) could be heard. The rest of the day was spent calling at different site through the sierra and then on wards down to the coast. 
Layering in the Sierra.
Here we stopped at a rocky area on the beach, while the rocks were being examined I picked up several Yellow-legged Gull (Gaviota Patiamarilla / Larus Michahellis), a couple of Audouin's Gulls (Gaviota de Audouin / Larus audouinii) and a single Great Cormorant (Cormorán Grande / Phalacrocorax carbo). On the rocks Seaside Daisy (Asteriscus maritimus) was very common. 
Rocks on the beach.
We then made our way back to the villa via mercodona supermarket.

Sunday 11 April 2010

Sorbas Area, Almeria Province.

Day one with the Open University Geology Society.

The Group looking at the Gypsum Bush.
I arrived in Sorbas several hours before I was due to meet Jan and Linda (two friends who own the La Paz holiday Accommodation in our road back home) and the other members of the OUGS. As I was early I had some breakfast in one of the local ventas and then headed down the road south of the town.
Gypsum Crystals.
I parked up and had a walk through a nice area of Cistis scrub the first bird seen was a fine male Ring Ouzel (Mirlo Capiblanco / Turdus torquatus) which did an all to brief fly passed, the next bird was a male Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator), followed by a female Orphean Warbler (Curruca Mirlona / Sylvia hortensis) which was feeding in an Olive tree and just totally ignored me. 
Gypsum Hollow.
Several spikes of the Giant (Himantoglossum robertiana), Yellow Bee (Ophrys lutea) and Mirror Orchids (Ophrys speculum) were growing on the verges along with the very impressive Yellow Broomrape type plant Cistanche (Cistanche phelypaea). Other plants included Fagonia (Fagonia cretica), Grey-leaved Cistis (Cistus albidus), Pink Phlomis (Phlomis purpurea) and Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena). From the other side of the road there was a view down over a valley with some small crags, here I saw and heard Iberian Green Woodpecker (Pito Real / Picus sharpei), Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura), Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia) and Nightingale (Ruisenor Común / Luscinia megarhynchos).
Rippling in layered sediments.
I then meet up with the Geology Group and made my way behind there four cars to the first of a few road side stops. Here we look at what to me was an amazing lump of shinny rock, to the experts it was a large Gypsum Bush (ever felt completely out of you depth, wildlife is so much easier) which ever way it was very impressive. A couple of European Bee-eaters (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster) briefly did a fly passed and another Black Wheatear surveyed us from one of the large rock pinnacles near by. Further along the road we walked out on to a flat area made up totally of Gypsum, here we were looking at what a total Geopillock would describe as water damage, where the water has lifted a layer of rock. More Mirror Orchids were seen here along with a lot of a small Linaria species (yet to be identified).
Mediterranean Kidney Vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria).
Again we moved on and arrived at the Cuevas de Sorbas where we had a loo and coffee stop and I managed to pick up something for my lunch which was to be taken at the far end of rambler on the way to the caves. Along the cave several features were pointed out by Linda, Several birds were seen including Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia) and Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia). Butterflies were also seen, a couple of Swallowtails (Papilio machaon), Small White (Artogeia rapae) and a Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi) which was seen and photographed by another group member. 
Green Hairstreak (Callophrys rubi).
After lunch we had a look at several spots along the Rambler which runs around the town of Sorbas and called in at the visitors centre there.
Red-rumped (Golondrina Dáurica / Hirundo daurica) and Barn Swallows (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica), House Martin (Avión Común / Delichon urbica) and Nightingale (Ruisenor Común / Luscinia megarhynchos) were all picked up.
The last stop was at Rambler de Gochar where we walked along a dry river bed to a set of Stacked Reef. These looked like cliffs but on closer inspection the tubes of the corals could be seen. 
Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis).
The whole area was quiet bird wise but some wildflowers were seen, including Paronychia (Paronychia argentea), Navelwort (Umbilicus rupestris), Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis), Mediterranean Kidney Vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria), Hollow-stemmed Asphodel (Asphodelus fistulosus) and French Lavender (Lavendula stoechas).