On the edge of the 1% of the Embalse in Malaga Province.
Iberian Orchid (Ophrys vernixia).
There is a very small patch of the Embalse that just creeps in to the province which includes the southern half of the Dam near Cuevas de San Marcos. With some good directions from Ian Phillips yet again I found several plants of the uncommon Iberian Orchid (Ophrys vernixia). The plants were in an area of Pine woodland not to far from the dam along with several spikes of Yellow Bee Orchid (Ophrys lutea) and Small-flowered Serapias (Serapias parviflora). The Common Mirror Orchids (Ophrys Speculum) were all pretty much over with, as were a couple of spikes of Giant(Himantoglossum robertiana), a great many Italian Man Orchids (Orchis italica) and also the hybrid between Ophrys speculum and vernixia = Ophrys x innominata.
Iberian Orchid (Ophrys vernixia).
Firecrest(Reyezuelo Listado / Regulus ignicapillus), Common Crossbill (Piquituerto Común / Loxia curvirostra), Coal Tit(Carbonero Garrapinos / Parus ater), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala) and Orphean Warbler (Curruca Mirlona / Sylvia hortensis) were all seen in the pines. Large numbers of House Martins (Avión Común / Delichon urbica) were nesting on the under side of the dam and a couple of pairs of Red-rumped Swallows (Golondrina Dáurica / Hirundo daurica) must have had a sutable nest site near by as they were also feeding along the dam wall.
11 of us (most from the Loja informal English group) set out from Venta San Rafiel in Venta del Raya to spend the morning the area around Zafarraya looking for Orchids, Wildflowers and Birds. The first spot was just to the south of the village where we were hoping to see some of the Montagu's Harriers (Aguilucho Cenizo / Circus pygargus) that had been seen in previous years but as usual the birds behaved impeccably and disappeared for the whole time we were there. We move on to the first of the areas for the Orchids, Yellow Bee (Ophrys lutea) and Conical Orchids (Orchis conicia) were the first two species seen. A male Cirl Bunting (Escribano Soteno / Emberiza cirlus) was then seen well singing from a tree top and 9 Griffon Vultures (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus) passed east at some distance.
Provence Orange-tip(Anthocharis euphenodes).
Also along the road side we found Wild Peony (Paeonia broteroi) near flowering, Silvery Paronychia (Paronychia argentea), Southern Daisy (Bellis cordifolia), Southern Knapweed(Centaurea pullata ssp pullata) and Southern Butchers Broom (Ruscus hypophyllum).
We then found a couple more Orchids, Sawfly(Ophrys tenthredinifera) and a singleItalian Man (Orchis italica) were soon followed by Mirror (Ophrys speculum) and Giant Orchids (Himantoglossum robertiana), Sword-leaved Helleborine (Cephalanthera longifolia) and several Lizard Orchids(Himantoglossum hircinum) which need a week or two before they would be in flower.
Common / Southern Blue (Polyommatus icarus / celina).
The scope again came in for some use as Crested Lark (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata), Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia) and Jay (Arrendajo / Garrulus glandarius) were seen and Common Cuckoo(Cuco Común / Cuculus canorus) and Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops) were heard.
We then moved out on to the road and walked along to a second area of Oak woodland where we found many more Sword-leaved Helleborines, Conical and a few Lange's Orchids(Orchis langei) along with Small Early Purple (Orchis olbiensis).
Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata.
In the same area we hadProvence Orange-tip (Anthocharis euphenodes),Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui), Small White (Artogeia rapae), Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus) and Common / Southern Blue (Polyommatus icarus / celina) butterflies on the wing.
We then made our way to Zafarraya for a Coffee and Loo break before having a short walk along the disused railway line, here we saw severalRed-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) doing aerobatics along the cliffs, both Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura) and Blue Rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius) perched up on rocks. Other birds seen included Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica), Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Common Kestrel(Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus), Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris),Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis),Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula), Pallid Swift (Vencejo Pálido / Apus pallidus) and Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus).
Pink-butterfly Orchid (Orchis papilionacea).
Our last stop was on the way back just out side Zafarraya, here we first of all picked up a couple of European Bee-eaters (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster) hawking over the fields and a nice male Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator) sat on a pole. In the woods both Orphean (Curruca Mirlona / Sylvia hortensis) and Bonelli’s Warblers (Mosquitero Papialbo / Phylloscopus bonelli) were picked up and a singing maleGolden Oriole (Oropéndola / Oriolus oriolus) was heard and seen by a few of the group.
Then we came across the star plant of the day, a nice patch of Pink-butterfly Orchid (Orchis papilionacea) made just about all the group reach for their cameras. Out in the more open grassland we then added Small Woodcock Orchid (Ophrys picta), Small-flowered Tongue (serapias parviflora) and Pyramidal Orchids(Anacamptis pyramidalis), the later was not quite in flower. We then headed back to the cars adding Tassel Hyacinth (Muscari comosum), Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum) and Ronda Cranesbill (Geranium malviflorum).