Thursday 27 May 2010

Sierra Loja, Granada Province.

The second visit in two days.

Common Cuckoo (Cuco Común / Cuculus canorus).
After having a good day up the sierra yesterday I was thinking can today go as well? I need not have worried. Once all the members of the Axarquia bird group had gathered we started the run up the hill. At the first stop by the small disused quarry we picked up Barn (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica) and Red-rumped Swallows (Golondrina Dáurica / Hirundo daurica), House Martin (Avión Común / Delichon urbica), Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus) and heard Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator).
Mucizonia hispida.
The Shrike was added to the seen list a few minutes later on the side of the track, along with a black looking Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris). The next stop was on the turning area before the drive up to the larger of the quarries. Here we added Iberian  Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cooki), Coal (Carbonero Garrapinos / Parus ater) and Great Tits (Carbonero Común / Parus major), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula) and Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus). Up at the quarry there was again no sign of the adult or juv Eagle Owls (Buho Real / Bubo bubo), but we did locate Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura), Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), a pair of Red-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) which gave us all good views, Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris), several Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia) and a single Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia).
Erodium cheilanthifolium.
In the area near where we had left the car we picked up at least 6 Spanish Ibex (Capra pyreaica hispanica) on the higher crags, along with Common Cuckoo (Cuco Común / Cuculus canorus), Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata) and another Woodchat Shrike. Up on the crags Road we made an extra stop to watch two immature Golden Eagles (Águila Real / Aquila chrysaetos) run the wrath of the local Red-billed Choughs and Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula), along here we also picked up Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), good numbers of both Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina) and Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), plus another male Black Wheatear, Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus) and Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa).
Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua).
Once we were up on the tops we quickly added a cracking male Black-eared Wheatear (Collalba Rubia / Oenanthe hispanica), Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua) and Spectacled Warbler (Curruca Tomillera / Sylvia conspicillata). Several species of wildflowers were also identified including Common Snapdragon (Antirrhinum major), Ballota hirsuta, Buckler Mustard (Biscutella frutescens), Carduus granatensis, Yellow Restharrow (Ononis natrix), Cerastium boissieri and Dianthus Pungens. Raptors were few and far between but some of the group saw a male Montagu's Harrier (Aguilucho Cenizo / Circus pygargus), the rest of us had to do with a couple of passing Griffon Vulture (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus). Right up on the highest point we added to the plant list with Common Stork's-bill (Erodium cicutarium), White Rockrose (Helianthemum apenninum), Viola dementria, Upland Peony (Paeonia coriacea) and Pink Med Catchfly (Silene colorata).
Wall Germander (Teucrium chamaedrys).
On the rocks just passed the Charca's we picked up the star bird of the day a beautiful adult male Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush (Roquero Rojo / Monticola saxatilis) which was carrying food for a brood of nearby nestlings. After getting great views of this bird we carried on around to the Goat Cave and picked up several Crag Martins (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris), many more Rock Sparrows, several male Blue Rock Thrushes (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius), flocks of Red-billed Choughs and some better views of Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia). Plants again feature with a nice patch of Erodium cheilanthifolium being found on a large rock, along with Wall Germander (Teucrium chamaedrys), Hop Trefoil (Trifolium campestre), Star Clover (Trifolium stellatum) Mucizonia hispida and Saxifraga camposii. On our way down more views were had of the Rock Thrush male and this time he was joined by his mate and a Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra). We stopped at Charca de Negra and had a look at the pool for the Sharp-ribbed Salamanders (Pleurodeles waltl), on the crags above the water good numbers of Rock Sparrow were again seen and a nest with three near fledged Red-billed Choughs was found.
Saxifraga camposii.
Back near the bottom of the crags one of the two immature Golden Eagles did another fly passed giving the members of the group who missed it on the way up a chance to get some good views of a cracking bird. At this point I had to leave the group, once I got them to a place to eat I returned home and Bob lead them on to other sites in the afternoon.

Wednesday 26 May 2010

Sierra Loja and the upper Cacín Valley, Granada Province.

A days guiding in the hills.

Spanish Gatekeeper (Pyronia bathsheba).
It was nice to get up the Sierra again, I meet today’s birders on the car park of the service station and we started to make our way up. The first stop was at the small disused quarry where there were good numbers of House Martins (Avión Común / Delichon urbica), Barn Swallows (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica) and Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor) in the surrounding trees and we also had fly over Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Common Crossbill (Piquituerto Común / Loxia curvirostra) and Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus). Just as we jumped back in the car a pair of Red-rumped Swallows (Golondrina Dáurica / Hirundo daurica) were noted down in the dell next to the motorway. 
Upland Peony (Paeonia coriacea).
At the turning point further up we stopped and spent some time scanning the pine woods. A single Iberian Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cooki) sat out on a branch giving good views and an immature male Common Crossbill was watched in the scope as it stripped a pine cone. Two Great Spotted Cuckoos (Crialo Europeo / Clamator gladarius) were seen flying along the hillside behind the pines and Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Coal Tit (Carbonero Garrapinos / Parus ater), Orphean Warbler (Curruca Mirlona / Sylvia hortensis), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula) and Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris) were all heard or seen. At the large disused quarry we looked for the Eagle Owls (Buho Real / Bubo bubo) which had been showing well for the last few weeks but as I had expected the you had fledged and the adults were not on show. 
Griffon Vulture (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus).
In this area we did see Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura), Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris), Red-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia) and Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia). On the bank a pair of Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata) and a couple of Common Cuckoos (Cuco Común / Cuculus canorus) were added to the list. Lots of Spanish Gatekeepers (Pyronia bathsheba) and Spanish Marbled Whites (Melangia ines) were feeding around the masses of wildflowers, these included Carduus granatensis, Viola dementria and Purple Vipers Bugloss (Echium lycopsis).  
Carduus granatensis.
The next stop was on the crags, good numbers of Red-billed Choughs were seen again along with Jackdaws (Grajilla / Corvus monedula), Griffon Vulture (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus), Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator), Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina) and Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus). Two female Spanish Ibex (Capra pyreaica hispanica) were seen fleeing across the rocky slopes below us. 
On the tops the first of many Black-eared Wheatears (Collalba Rubia / Oenanthe hispanica) were seen, a cracking male and a drabber female. On the drive across to the pools at Charca del Negro we added Blue Rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius), Common (Vencejo Común / Apus apus) and Pallid Swifts (Vencejo Pálido / Apus pallidus), House Martin (Avión Común / Delichon urbica), Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes) and at least two displaying Spectacled Warblers (Curruca Tomillera / Sylvia conspicillata). 
Ocellated Lizard (Lacerta lepida).
On the flats near the pools we eventually had some distant views of both a male and female Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush (Roquero Rojo / Monticola saxatilis) but we had no luck tracking them down for better views. Upland Peony (Paeonia coriacea) and Clouded Yellow (Colias crocea) were also added here along with another 2 Griffon Vultures and a distant Bonelli's Eagle (Aguila-azor Perdicera / Hieraaetus faciatus). 
The next stop was along the goat cave cliffs, more Red-billed Choughs, Crag Martin, Blue Rock Thrush x5 at least, dozens of Rock Sparrows and two Corn Buntings (Triguero / Emberiza calandra) were all seen before we made our way back to the pools to have a look at the Sharp-ribbed Salamanders (Pleurodeles waltl), several of which were seen under the carpet of Pond Water Crowfoot (Ranunculus Peltatus). 
Viola dementria.
On the way down we picked up a nice female Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush before going and getting a late lunch near Huetor Tajar. On the sierra we also saw two Ocellated Lizards (Lacerta lepida) sunning them selves out on large rocks. 
We only visited a single site in the afternoon which was the agricultural area of the Cacín Valley. Here we managed to added Short-toed (Terrera Común / Calandrella brachydactyla) and Crested Larks (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata), Tawny Pipit (Bisbita campestre / Anthus campestris) before we dropped on a cracking male Little Bustard (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax). On our way out of the site a migrant Roller (Carraca / Coracias garrulus) was picked up sat in one of the many Almond trees, a good end to what I hope the guests thought was an enjoyable day.

Tuesday 25 May 2010

Sierra de Huetor, Granada Province.

Lecture and Ramble.

Woodlark (Totovia / Lullula arborea).
I was fortunate to be asked by a friend Juan to attend a lecture on Orchids being given in the visitors centre at Sierra de Huetor.
On the way I stopped a couple of times in the pine woodlands in the surrounding area, the commonest species seen was Woodlark (Totovia / Lullula arborea) several birds were heard and seen, along with Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus), Jay (Arrendajo / Garrulus glandarius), European Bee-eater (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster) and Common Crossbill (Piquituerto Común / Loxia curvirostra).
Small Woodcock Orchid (Ophrys picta).
Grey-leaved Cistis (Cistis albidus) was every where and Common Mallow (Malva sylvestris), Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena), Childing Pink (Petrorhagia nanteulii) and Polygala boissieri were all growing on the verge.
The group.
Once at the visitors centre I met Juan and his wife Beatriz and we started to have a look through some of the orchids that Juan had seen earlier in the week on a visit with some of his students. Most of the Yellow Bees (ophrys lutea) and all the Mirrors (Ophrys speculum), Dense-flowered (Neotinea maculata) and Southern Early Purples (Orchis mascula/olbiensis) were over with but a few very nice spikes of Small Woodcock Orchid (Ophrys picta) were perfect. I also managed to get a few nice shots of a female Provence Orange-tip (Anthocharis euphenodes).
Provence Orange-tip (Anthocharis euphenodes).
At about 10:30 the lecture started and although as you would expect it was all in Spanish, I understood a lot and Juan explained what I could not sort out.
After the indoor bit we all got into the transport and made our way around to a woodland site nearby. Whilst we walked up the track many perfect spikes of Southern Early Purple Orchids were seen under the shade of the oaks and pines. In amongst the scrub we also found several fine spikes of Purple Limodore (Limodorum abortivum) but just a single one was in flower, the rest needing at least another week. The next species found was Sword-leaved Helleborine (Cephalanthera longifolia) a single plant that was just starting to go over but still a beautiful flower.
Purple Limodore (Limodorum abortivum).
Once back at the cars some of the group including Juan and Beatriz had to make their ways home but I stopped with Juan the lecturer and some of the students for a drink before I to had to leave them to there second beer. I stopped at a site on the way back for a brief look for some Orchis cazorlensis which we were told about but only managed more mascula, Sword-leaved Helleborines and several Man (Aceras anthropophorum).