Friday 24 December 2010

Western Slopes of the Sierra Nevada, Granada Province.

Buntings, Finches and Larks Galore.

Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia).
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. 
View of the site.
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 Iberian Green Woodpecker (Pito Real / Picus sharpei) 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. 
Hawfinch (Picogordo / Coccotraustes coccotraustes).
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. 
Cirl Bunting (Escribano Soteno / Emberiza cirlus).
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 Yellowhammer flew in to a small tree with a flock of about 30 Rock Sparrows, the Yellowhammer looked 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.

Monday 20 December 2010

Guadalhorce and Near Fuengirola, Malaga Province.

A shopping and birding day.

Purple Sandpiper (Correlimos Oscuro / Calidris maritime).
Jayne and I set off down to the coast to get the shopping for over the holidays while we have still got the hire car as we are not sure when the Fiesta will be back with us. The first stop was at the massive DIY store Leroy Merlin which is conveniently just opposite the Guadalhorce Nature reserve. I just fancied a look at the beach on the way further down the coast and was quite pleased with the birds seen on this very brief visit. The first things picked up were three separate flocks of Common Scoters (Negrón Común / Melanitta nigra) with a total of 22 birds between them, also seen were large numbers of Mediterranean (Gaviota Cabecinegra / Larus melanocephalus), Black-headed (Gaviota Riedora / Larus ridibundus), Lesser Black-backed (Gaviota Somria / Larus fuscus) and Yellow-legged Gulls (Gaviota Patiamarilla / Larus Michahellis). 
Purple Sandpiper (Correlimos Oscuro / Calidris maritime).
With a quick scan along the shoreline I added 6 Ruddy Turnstone (Vuelvepiedras Común / Arenaria interpres), several Sanderlings (Correlimos Tridáctilo / Calidris alba), a Little Egret (Garceta Común / Egretta garzetta) and a few Great Cormorants (Cormorán Grande / Phalacrocorax carbo) which were diving in the waves. A small number of Northern Gannets (Alcatraz Atlántico / Morus bassanus) fished further out and a Kingfisher (Martin Pescador / Alcedo atthis) was also trying hard for a meal from the rocks just off the watch point. The only birds noted over the reserve were a single female Marsh Harrier (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus) which was being mobbed by a flock of about 50 Spotless Starlings (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor).
Sea or Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritime).
I then dropped Jayne off in the centre of Fuengirola and then continued further on along the coast to try and find some reported Purple Sandpipers (Correlimos Oscuro / Calidris maritime), eventually I located two birds a little further along the coast road than I had seen them in the previous year. I had just got set up and had taken some not so great shots when two more birders turned up from the opposite direction and the birds were flushed. They relocated further out on some rocks but eventually move back to the large blocks of concrete where they had been first. Again I was just setting up and a police helicopter flew over the site very low and flushed them again and that was to be the last I saw of them that morning. The only other new birds for the day were Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita) and Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros).
Seaside Daisy (Asteriscus maritimus).
The coast line along the stretch was covered in white patches of Sea or Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritime) and dotted with the yellow flowers of both Seaside Daisy (Asteriscus maritimus) and Rock Marigold (Calendula suffruticosa), adding some nice colour at this time of the year.