Saturday 31 December 2011

The end of year totals.

I have had a good year in most areas of the wildlife I look for, Orchids have probably been the best with 8 new species being added to my Spanish list and a total for the year of 46 full species plus a few subspecies and a couple of impressive hybrids.
The Bird list was about average with 238 species being seen including some special ones which will remain in the memory for a long time including Greater Spotted Eagle (Aguila Moteada / Aguila clanga), Pallid Harrier (Aguilucho Papialbo / Circus macrourus), Spanish Imperial Eagle (Aguila Imperial Ibérica / Aguila adalberti), White-rumped Swift (Vencejo Cafre / Apus caffer) and Great Black-backed Gull (Gavión Atlantico / Larus marinus).
I saw more species of Dragonfly in 2011 than in any year to date but missed quite a few expected insects. I ended the year with a total of 27 but it could easily have been over 30. The only new species for the year Small Spreadwing (Lestes virens) and Migrant Spreadwing (Lester barbarus) were both seen quite locally on a small agricultural area pool.
The same could be said for the Butterflies with over 70 species being recorded including 12 new ones. I looked through the list of what I had missed and there were at least another 10 that I should have seen.
All in all a good year but hope to catch up with a few more lifers in 2012.

Happy New Year and thanks for reading.

Granada City, Granada Province.

Stroll around the Alhambra Gardens.

Entrance to the Alhambra area.
Jayne and I went to the Saturday market on the southern side of the city and then went for a walk around the gardens surrounding the Alhambra looking for a hole in a tree where our friend Juan had seen a roosting Tawny Owl (Cárabo Común / Strix aluco). We were not sure we had found the right hole as we could not see any sign of an Owl so I gave Juan a call on his mobile to check we were at the right spot. He answered and said that he was close by himself and he and his wife Beatriz would come up and show us the right spot. 
Large fountain in the gardens.
Unfortunately we were in the right spot and the Owl was not showing. We then had a wander around the gardens together looking for other species but it was quite quiet and we did not catch up with any of the Redwings (Zorzal Alirrojo / Turdus iliacus) or Hawfinches (Picogordo / Coccotraustes coccotraustes) he had seen the morning before. We did see Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricapilla), Blue Tit (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Great Tit (Carbonero Común / Parus major), Grey Wagtail (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea), House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer Domesticus), Long-tailed Tit (Mito / Aegithalos caudatus), Robin (Petirrrojo / Erithacus rubecula), Song Thrush (Zorzal Común / Turdus philomelos) and White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba). 
On the way back down to the city.
We also saw a single Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) and a tailless Iberian Wall Lizard (Podarcis hispanica).

Friday 30 December 2011

Cacín Valley and El Temple area, Granada Province.

Winter birding.

Well I say winter but the weather here is fantastic at the moment so I was in a short sleeved shirt all day until I was at the raptor roost in the evening. I started off at a site near El Turro where the first bird seen was a flyby Black-winged Kite (Elanio Común / Elanus caeruleus) which perched briefly in an Almond tree before moving out of site behind the mass of solar panels. 
Once out on the fields the Larks started to flush up from the track side fields, most were Calandra's (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra) and Skylarks (Alondra Común / Alauda arvensis) but there were also some Thekla (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae) and Crested Larks (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata) in the flocks along with good numbers of Rock Sparrows (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia) and Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina). 
I stopped and had a scan from the highest point near a derelict Cortijo and had brief views of 6 Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Ganga Ortega / Pterocles orientalis) as they disappeared from view over the nearby ridge, several Common Kestrels (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus) which were perched up on the no hunting signs and a Iberian Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis) which was surveying the area from a dead tree on a distant field edge. In the trees and scrub along a nearer margin Mistle Thrushes (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus) were scolding something that they did not like and a pair of Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata) leapt around and dived at what ever it was that had upset them. 
Other birds out on the fields included a Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua) catching some sun from the top of a rock pile along with good numbers of Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Meadow Pipits (Bistita Común / Anthus pratensis) and White Wagtails (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba). I then moved on down in to the Cacín Valley to the small Embalse but it was fairly quiet. The best bird was a male Marsh Harrier (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus) which flew around over the reedbeds for at least half an hour before dropping down into cover. 
Out on the water several male Northern Shovelers (Cuchara Común / Anas clypeata) dabbled and upended along the reed margins whist around 20 Common Pochard (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina) were feeding out in the deeper water with a few Little Grebes (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis). Five Great Cormorants (Cormorán Grande / Phalacrocorax carbo) were roosting on a dead tree stump surrounded by a dozen or so male Eurasian Teal (Cerceta Común / Anas crecca) all sat with their heads tucked in under their wings. A couple of Crag Martins (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris) were feeding above the tangle of dead branches in the shallow waters while dozens of Common Chiffchaffs (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita) flitted around in the thicket. 
From here I headed to Cacín and onwards to a site nearer to Granada where I was meeting friend Juan Pérez Contreras to watch the raptor roost. I arrived an hour or so early and as I drove into the site the first bird seen was an immature Pallid Harrier (Aguilucho Papialbo / Circus macrourus) which was perched on the perimeter fence. I had a quick look through the bins just to confirm the identification and then went on past the bird turned around and came back so that the scope which was already mounted on the window was on the right side. I focused in on the bird and had a good look before grabbing the camera which was my main mistake as just as I was lining the shot up the bird flew off along the fence line and away. 
After a few well chosen words of disappointment I relocated to the usual watch point just in time to get some nice views of a male Merlin (Esmerejón / Falco columbarius) flying over the next field, for some reason this bird must have forgotten how small it was and tried without success to take down a Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa) which just ruffled its wings and threw the small falcon off before walking a few steps and starting to feed again. 
A few minutes later whist still watching the falcon on the ground next to the Partridge I picked up a larger raptor approaching the spot, this time it was a female Hen Harrier (Aguilucho Pálido / Circus cyaneus) which also tried to have a go at the partridge but again this lucky bird slipped away but this time flew low and quickly away over the nearby ridge. The next bird was a female Sparrowhawk (Gavilán Común / Accipiter nisus) which flew low between the dead spikes of thistle plants flushing large numbers of smaller birds ahead of it. 
At 17:00 Juan arrived and things went quiet for a while but as the light began to drop the Hen Harriers started to arrive in the roost area and after the first couple of males and a female were seen the immature Pallid showed up and landed on a field some distance away. It made a couple of short flights before dropping on to some sort of prey, it then spent some time eating it before flying straight towards us and giving good views in the dropping light. 
As dusk arrived the next highlight of the evening gave us some fabulous views, a single Short-eared Owl (Búho Campestre / Asio flammeus) cruised around the site for the remaining 15 minutes before it was to dark to see anything worth while. Juan and I were just about to leave when we notice the Merlin come in quite close; it was a nice view with the bird flying through the orange glow of the sunset at the same moment as a male Hen Harrier. A good end to a good days birding.

Monday 26 December 2011

Loja, Granada Province.

Royal British Leigion Walking Group.

Wide-leaved Iris (Iris planifolia).
Today was mainly a reason to walk off some of yesterdays exesses, eight members of the walking group met at the Bar Alamo in the San Francisco area of Loja for a coffee before we started our walk up to wards the railway station. Whist we were having our drinks a male Sparrowhawk (Gavilán Común / Accipiter nisus) was seen on one of the nearby roads chasing a group of House Sparrows (Gorrión Común / Passer Domesticus) around and right underneath one of the parked cars. On the walk up the hill out of town I also added a Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla) which was climbing the out side wall of one of the old engine sheds, Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto), White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba) and Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala). Once at the top of the hill we skirted the lower slopes of Hacho and walked on towards the fish farms below the Frontil Industrial estate. Along here I had some fleeting glimpes of a male Blue Rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius), Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura), Common Crossbill (Piquituerto Común / Loxia curvirostra), loads of Serins (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus) and Goldfinches (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis) and a pair of Thekla Larks (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae). Along the track there were also several plants of the early flowering Wide-leaved Iris (Iris planifolia). 
The Walkers.
Down by the fish farms there is a cristal clear stream which is packed full of Iberian Barble and smaller fish, birds included Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinula Chloropus), Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita), Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor) and a couple of nicely plumaged Grey Wagtails (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea). We then walked out towards the Los Infiernos water Falls, crossing the fields we flushed up a huge flock of several hundred Goldfinches, Linnets and Serins plus a few Meadow Pipit (Bistita Común / Anthus pratensis). We then started to make our way back along some tracks from Esperanza via the old railway station to the Bar Alamo, on the way I added Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs) and Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra). We finished the walk with a very nice beer before heading back home.

Sunday 25 December 2011

Near Huétor Tajar, Granada Province, Spain.

Happy Christmas to all the readers.

Lola and her son.
Thank you very much for taking the time to read this blog, I hope to keep it going and keep it as interesting as possible. Please make comments, as I would like to know what people think about the content.
Here's a photograph of Lola and her son our Spanish neighbours who paid us a visit at 9:30 last night singing Spanish Carols and handing out edible Acorns and other fruit. We did them a swap and gave them some Liquorice Allsorts which Lola took a particular liking to.

Again thanks for reading and have a great Christmas and New Year.   Mick.

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Coin and Fuengirola, Malaga Province.

Last Orchid of the year.

Ophrys malacitana.
After hearing that Kevin Wade had found some Ophrys malacitana down near Marbella I decided that I would try a site that Ian Phillips had taken me to a couple of years earlier for the species to see what was flowering. We arrived at the location near to the town of Coin in Malaga Province but the wind was quite stronge and cool which if anything was in flower meant that getting shots would be hard going. Eventually I found just two spikes but they were in perfect condition just on the road side. The wind did cause some problems as did the deep shade that the plants were flowering in, below a small Carob tree. In the same area I saw Friar's Cowl (Arisarum vulgare), a male Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia), Firecrest (Reyezuelo Listado / Regulus ignicapillus) and a very vocal Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla).
Friar's Cowl (Arisarum vulgare).
We continued on down to the coast to Fuengirola where I had a quick look on the river adding Lesser Black-backed (Gaviota Somria / Larus fuscus), Yellow-legged (Gaviota Patiamarilla / Larus Michahellis), Black-headed (Gaviota Riedora / Larus ridibundus) and Mediterranean Gulls (Gaviota Cabecinegra / Larus melanocephalus), one of the latter in full breeding plumage. Both White (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba) and Grey Wagtails (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea) were present along with masses of Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita) and several fly over Monk Parakeet (Cotorra Argentina / Myiopsitta monachus) which were heard well before they were seen.

Monday 19 December 2011

Laguna Herrera, Antequera, Malaga Province.

Life again at Laguna Herrera.

The Laguna.
Jayne and I popped off the motorway at Antequera to call at the garden centre on the old Cordoba road; we arrived to find it was shut so we had a look at the lagoon near by. As we drove up the track there were large flocks of small passerines flushing up from the dead thistle and fennel stalks. these included lots of Serins (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus) and Goldfinches (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), a few Greenfinches (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Linnets (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina) and Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs) were also among the numbers. On the recently planted winter crop fields there were good numbers of Northern Lapwings (Avefria Europea / Vanellus vanellus), a single Golden Plover (Chorlito Dorado Europeo / Pluvialis apricaia) and a male Hen Harrier (Aguilucho Pálido / Circus cyaneus) which I missed but Jayne saw it drop into a deeper area of vegetation. I was pleased to see that the Laguna had started to fill with water and held a few birds, most were Black-headed (Gaviota Riedora / Larus ridibundus) and Lesser Black-backed Gulls (Gaviota Somria / Larus fuscus) but on the muddy margins at least 5 winter plumaged Little Stints (Correlimos Menudo / Calidris minuta) were feeding along with singles of both Green Sandpiper (Andarrios Grande / Tringa ochropus) and Black-winged Stilt (Ciguenuela Común / Himantopus himantopus) plus a few more Northern Lapwings.
I had a look out over the surrounding fields from the bank at the side of the track and could see that the fields opposite the lagoon were also flooded again and a couple of thousand Gulls were scattered across the shallow water and mud. Also seen were a couple of Mallards (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), many White Wagtails (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba), Meadow Pipits (Bistita Común / Anthus pratensis) and Crested Larks (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata). On the banks of the ditch a single Dartford Warbler (Curruca Rabilarga / Sylvia undata) flicked through the thistle stems along with a couple of Sardinian's (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), hordes of Common Chiffchaffs (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita) and a couple of Zitting Cisticola's (Buitrón / Cisticola juncidis). On our drive back to the Cordoba road we added a very dark Common Buzzard (Busardo Ratonero / Buteo buteo) perched right on top of one of the telegraph poles, a Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus) which was hovering over a crowd of Cattle Egrets (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis) which were following a ploughing tractor and a female Merlin (Esmerejón / Falco columbarius) which zipped along side the car and dropped into the ditch and disappeared fro view as quickly as it had arrived. Other birds seen included Calandra Lark (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra) and Skylarks (Alondra Común / Alauda arvensis), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor) and Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros).
Burning off the Asparagus tops at Huétor Tájar.
We then headed back towards home but returned via the fields to the North of Huétor where we picked up the wintering flock of Little Bustard (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax) or about 70 of them, 100+ Stone-curlews (Alcaraván Común / Burhinus oedicnemus), a large flock of around 90 Iberian  Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cooki) which were feeding in the vegetation below the trees in one of the Poplar plantation and another Green Sandpiper feeding on the river..

Tuesday 13 December 2011

Barbate and La Janda, Cadiz Province.

A day to remember!!!

Northern Bald Ibis (Ibis Eremita / Geronticus eremita).
I contacted Steve Daly of Andalucian Guides a week or so ago and asked him for some information on the Pallid Harriers (Aguilucho Papialbo / Circus macrourus) he had been seeing in his area as I was planning a visit. He replied saying that we could meet in one of the bars near the area and he would very kindly take me out in to the La Janda area and show me around and with some luck the birds.
Penduline Tit (Pájaro Moscón / Remiz pendulinus) taken by Steve.
So on this very foggy Tuesday morning we met up, had a coffee and headed out towards Barbate to escape the fog and hopefully see some of the free flying population of Northern Bald Ibis (Ibis Eremita / Geronticus eremita) from the reintrodution program. On the way over we picked up Spanish Sparrow (Gorrión Moruno / Passer hispaniolensis), Western Cattle Egret (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis), Meadow Pipit (Bistita Común / Anthus pratensis), masses of Serins (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), Crag Martins (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris) and Collared Doves (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto). 
Penduline Tit (Pájaro Moscón / Remiz pendulinus) taken by Steve.
We arrived and after seeing a few of the Ibis on the roadsides where we could not stop we pulled into an area of small holding and in less than 5 minutes we had counted over 30, a great species to see but not the most handsome looking chaps (even I have a better hair do than them but not sure who's the better looking) we were going to see on this fantastic day. Also on the damp fields were some nice pure looking Rock Pigeons (Paloma Bravia / Columba livia) and Spotless Starlings (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor). We then moved on up the road towards Barbate past the lagoons and over the bridge into the town, on the way I saw Greenshank (Archibebe Claro / Tringa nebularia), Common Redshank (Archibebe Común / Tringa totanus), Little Egret (Garceta Común / Egretta garzetta), along with Lesser Black-backed (Gaviota Somria / Larus fuscus), Black-headed (Gaviota Riedora / Larus ridibundus) and Yellow-legged Gulls (Gaviota Patiamarilla / Larus Michahellis). 
Black-winged Kite (Elanio Común / Elanus caeruleus).
Once we were back out on the main road between Traifa and Vejer de la Frontera we headed south picking up some more of the Ibis in a road side field before pulling off into a park area where we quickly added Iberian Green Woodpecker (Pito Real / Picus sharpei), Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus), Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita) and Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros) to the list.
We moved out onto the farmland areas near by and following the main canal into La Janda, a large expance of drained lagoons which are now mainly rice paddies or crop fields. Almost immediatly we stopped and had a look into the reeds that lined the water we picked up Reed Bunting (Escribano Palustre / Emberiza schoeniclus), House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer Domesticus) and a male Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), whilst over head there were a pair of Ravens (Cuervo / Corvus corax) calling as they fly away over a nearby ridge. 
Black-winged Kite (Elanio Común / Elanus caeruleus).
On the fields opposite there were the first of the days many White Storks (Ciguena Blanca / Ciconia ciconia), a male and female Marsh Harrier (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus) and a small family party of Common Cranes (Grulla Común / Grus grus). We continued on along the banks of the main canal which contained quite a few Willow trees and this was where we picked up a couple of immature Night Herons (Marinete Común / Nycticorax nycticorax) and these were followed by a pair of Penduline Tits (Pájaro Moscón / Remiz pendulinus) which showed well on top of the marginal reeds. Pheasants (Faisán Vulgar / Phaisanus colchicus) and Grey Herons (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea) were every where out on the fields and in the reedbeds there were impressive numbers of Western Swamp-hen (Calamón Común / Porphyrio porphyrio) with there being at least 30 birds in one short stretch of canal. 
Spanish Imperial Eagle (Aguila Imperial Ibérica / Aguila adalberti).
We saw the first Black-winged Kite (Elanio Común / Elanus caeruleus) of the day which was picked up way off on one of the distant electricity cables, a little later a second bird was seen on the wires along side the track but it was straight into the sun so getting any shot was not possible. We pushed on along the track towards the southern exit back on to the Tarifa road, along the way we saw large numbers of Common Cranes, lots more Marsh Harriers, a single Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis), the only wildfowl of the day a few Mallards (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), Calandra (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra), Crested (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata) and Skylarks (Alondra Común / Alauda arvensis). We headed south and then turned back into the fields again into a more restricted access area of La Janda, after a couple of Kms we came across another Black-winged Kite, this time the light was perfect. 
Spanish Imperial Eagle (Aguila Imperial Ibérica / Aguila adalberti) taken by Steve.
The bird flew over some rough ground just to the side of Steve; his camera must have been red hot by the sound of the machine gun like shutter. The bird hovered then dropped to half its height before dropping down into the grass and coming up with it lunch of a large mouse or small rat. It then flew to one of the larger posts in the track side fence and started to feed on its prey which allowed us to get quite close using the vehicle as a moving hide, I was quite surprised to see the Kite gut the mouse before eating it, I was expecting it to go down in one! We spent quite some time watching this cracker of a bird before moving on along the track checking all the pylons on the way, this paid off quite quickly when Steve spotted the first of the days Spanish Imperial Eagles (Aguila Imperial Ibérica / Aguila adalberti) which was a nice clean looking 1st winter bird. 
Spanish Imperial Eagle (Aguila Imperial Ibérica / Aguila adalberti) with  taken by Steve.
Whilst we looked at the distant Eagle a male Hen Harrier (Aguilucho Pálido / Circus cyaneus) was seen quartering the far side of a thistle covered field and a Bonelli's Eagle (Aguila-azor Perdicera / Hieraaetus faciatus) passed high over head. Further on we picked up a 2nd winter type Spanish Imperial Eagle in flight over some nearby oak trees; we had some nice views of this bird before it dropped out of sight. Just a bit further on we stopped to check out a good looking area for raptors when Steve looked back towards the spot where we had just seen the Eagle and said that it was showing again but we soon realized that this was a different species all together. 
Pallid Harrier (Aguilucho Papialbo / Circus macrourus) taken by Steve.
This one was an immature Golden (Águila Real / Aquila chrysaetos) which gave very nice views and was joined after a short while by a Spanish Imperial but not the same birds as a few minutes ago as this was a 1st winter bird. We then climbed slightly up into an area of scattered trees, any open ground was carpeted with the young shoots of Asphodels, after a few minutes we picked a couple of Ringtail type Harriers a little further along the road so we jumped back into the van and moved ½ Km further on. 
Pallid Harrier (Aguilucho Papialbo / Circus macrourus) taken by Steve.
The first bird flew out of one of the trees and was quickly ided as a female Hen Harrier but a second bird flew in from where we had been and right in front of us and this one was very obviously the bird I had come to see a Pallid Harrier. We had good but all too brief views of this bird but Steve still managed to crack off some shots as it went by. After seeing this bird I am now 100% convinced that the bird Juan Perez and I saw back in Granada was also a Pallid
Also in this area we had Sparrowhawk (Gavilán Común / Accipiter nisus), another nice male Hen Harrier, Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua), Mistle (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus) and Song Thrushes (Zorzal Común / Turdus philomelos), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala) and Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa). We continued on along this track back to wards the main Canal on the way we had another Black-winged Kite (dam they are common here), loads .more Pheasants, Cetti’s Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti), Common Buzzard (Busardo Ratonero / Buteo buteo) and Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinula Chloropus). 
Mandrake (Mandragora autumnalis).
Once back at the main canal we had a chat with a couple of Spanish birders and had some nice views of the male Penduline Tit again before retracing out steps the long way back. In the area where we had seen the Pallid Harrier we had brief views of a Short-eared Owl (Búho Campestre / Asio flammeus) as it was being harried by several Jackdaws and Western Cattle Egrets. On the return drive we had good views of male and female Hen Harriers and 100s of Common Cranes coming into their roost fields. Other birds recorded during the drive around the area included Snipe (Agachadiza Común / Gallinago gallinago), Northern Lapwing (Avefria Europea / Vanellus vanellus), Grey Wagtail (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea), Kingfisher (Martin Pescador / Alcedo atthis), Green Sandpiper and clumps of Mandrake (Mandragora autumnalis) plants.
More of Steve’s shots can be seen at www.andalucianguides.com and www.andalucianguides.blogspot.com

Thursday 8 December 2011

My Orchid sightings in Granada and Malaga Provinces 2011.

A review of my Orchid year.

Hypochromatic Giant Orchid (Himantoglossum robertiana).
Well what a year I have had, the winter was much drier which gave me chance to get the vast majority of the jobs done on the house and this freed up more time in the spring. Things started towards the end of February with Giant Orchid (Himantoglossum robertiana) on the first visit of the year to an area near Zafarraya. The grassy slopes produced around 20 spikes of varying colour shade just starting to bloom and later that day I had several more plants along with a few Fan-lipped Orchid (Orchis colina) up on Sierra de Loja.
Atlas Orchid (Ophrys atlantica).
At the beginning of March I went for a walk on a ridge just above Granada City to see a show of Narcissus cantabricus but whilst in the same area I also found several spikes of Fan-lipped Orchid including the white/green variety flavescens, the early flowering variety of Sawfly Orchid (Ophrys tenthredinifera) and lots of Somber Bee Orchids (Ophrys fusca). Towards the middle of March I returned to the site where I had the first Giant Orchids of the year to locate a white plant that another birder had found. 
Ophrys x castroviejoi.
Once there I counted at least 100 flowering spikes of Giant with 5 albino /white plants eventually being seen. Conical (Orchis conica) and Southern Early Purple Orchids (Orchis olbiensis) were also flowering in good numbers. The 19th March was the first real organized Orchid trip and on this very enjoyable but busy day I had the pleasure of Juan Pérez Contreras and his wife Beatriz for company. This was the day that I think Juan was well and truly hooked on orchids; he had been interested before but mainly in the Ophrys group. 
Two-leaved Gennaria (Gennaria diphylla).
Our first stop was in the Mijas area in Malaga Province where in the roadside pine woods we built up quite a list of species which included Woodcock (Ophrys scolopax), Yellow Bee (Ophrys Lutea), Mirror (Ophrys speculum), Pink Butterfly (Orchis papilionacea), Sawfly Orchid and then Juan came up with the star find which was a hybrid between the Woodcock and Mirror Orchid (Scolopax X speculum) = Ophrys x castroviejoi and as far as we can find this hybrid has not been recorded in Andalucia before. 
Bumblebee Orchid (Ophrys bombilyfolia).
We moved on to the second site where we were looking for the rare Atlas Orchid (Ophrys atlantica) and after a good search around we found three plants with good flowers and several spikes still in bud. Here we also found a couple of plants of Ophrys dyris before we moved down the road towards Coin. At a site which is right on the edge of a working quarry we add two more species to the year list which were Italian Man Orchid (Orchis italica) and the much rarer Two-leaved Gennaria (Gennaria diphylla). We then headed over towards Embalse de Iznajar, doing some birding on the way at Laguna Dulce. 
Orchiaeras bivonae.
Here we were looking for a show of the uncommon Bumblebee Orchid (Ophrys bombilyfolia) which I had seen a few days earlier but on this visit we found the 30 or so plants that I had already seen along with around a 100 new spikes. We had a good search here but the only new species for the day were a couple of plants of the delicate Small Woodcock Orchid (Ophrys picta). Right at the end of the month I revisited the Izanaja Lake site following directions Ian Phillips had given me to see a cracking hybrid between Italian Man and Man Orchids = (Orchiaeras bivonae) and several spikes of Dark Spider Orchid (Ophrys incubacea).
Dark Spider Orchid (Ophrys incubacea).
Once a month Juan and I go to a site near Motril on the Granada coast to count sea birds, so once the April survey work was over with we went to have a look for a species already seen this year but this time it was in Granada Province Two-leaved Gennaria. We found several spikes but most were well pasted their best but In amongst the pine woods we also picked up Champagne Orchid (Orchis Champagneuxii) the first time either Juan or myself had seen the species in Granada Province. The next day (3rd) I again meet Juan and Beatriz but this time we were on a guided walk in the hills near Illora, a small town near Granada where we were hoping to see Lady Orchid (Orchis purpuera). We saw several plants but all needed a couple of weeks growing time before they would be in flower, all the other species seen have already been listed. 
Lady Orchid (Orchis purpuera).
The next species came whist I was at work doing a walk in the area around the Ardales Lakes and El Chorro, in the Pine woodlands hundreds of both Dense-Flowered (Neotinea maculata) and Man Orchids (Flor del Ahorcado / Aceras anthropophorum) were found in perfect condition. On the same walk I was pleased to find several spikes of Pink Butterfly Orchid in full bloom at a location I had not found them in before but I was totally dismayed later in the year to find the site had been destroyed to put in an access track to some new electricity pylons. The 12th found us in a small valley on the edge a large urbanization in Granada looking at some beautiful spikes of Dark Spider Orchid; around 20 plants were found in good condition. On the 15th Juan and I were back up in the Sierra Parapanda (Illora) area with Jose Luís Esteban looking for and this time seeing some stunning spikes of Lady Orchid with 5 plants being seen growing amongst some Gorse bushes which made for a painful hard earned set of photographs. 
Ophrys dyris.
Jose Lous also showed us some flowers of Wild Tulip (Tulipa sylvestris ssp australis) nearby. Next day we were on the slopes of another Sierra on the outskirts of Granada City were the main target was Early Spider Orchid (Ophrys sphegodes), Juan’s brother had joined us today which gave us another set of eye for the search. We found hundreds of Pink Butterflies and Man Orchids, a few spikes of Small Woodcock (Ophrys picta) and a new species for my Granada list Ophrys dyris. After a couple of hours I had to leave the others searching and head back to Granada, on my drive back down the track I found several early flowering Pyramidal Orchids (Orquidea pyramidal / Anacamptis pyramidalia), the leaf rosettes of Lizard Orchid (Himantoglossum hircinum) and then right on the road side 20 or so spikes of the Spider Orchid.
Heart-flowered Tongue Orchid (Serapias cordigera).
 I went back, picked Juan up and we all managed some nice photographs. On the 20th I was out again but this time guiding 12 members of the English in Loja group in the Oak woodlands near Zafarraya. We did not get the best weather for the walk but managed 16 species of Orchid including the first Sword-leaved Helleborines (Cephalanthera longifolia) and Lange's Orchids (Orchis langei) of the year. Right at the end of the month I was again working, leading three ladies around some interesting woodland near Antequera. We saw several species but the only new Orchid for the year was the variable Bee Orchid (Flor de abeja / Ophrys apifera) some having pink sepals and other being white and pale green.
Red Helleborine (Cephalanthera rubra).
I then had a quieter patch but returned back to the Zafarraya area on the 10th May to see the taller / later flowering variety of Sawfly Orchid (Ophrys ficalhoana); some plants were almost a meter high with nice large flowers. Several of the less showy Small Tongue Orchid (Serapias parviflora) were also seen at the same site. The next day I was down on the coast picking up a birder for a weeks guiding but before I meet him I went to a spot near the Las Chappas Hotel, Marbella for Heart-flowered Tongue Orchid (Serapias cordigera), Ian Phillips had seen a couple of plant a day or two earlier and he gave me some very good directions to what was another new species for my Spanish Orchid list. 
Burnt Orchid (Orchis ustulata).
The next week was all birds as the client had quite a wish list this left little time for looking in a downward direction but whilst we were up in the Sierra Nevada I did catch up with the rare Orchis cazorlensis. I got back to the Orchids on the 20th on another trip out with Juan into the hills near Granada where we located several more plants of Orchis cazorlensis and its hybrid with Orchis Langei which Juan had found a few days earlier, new species included lots of Barton's Orchid (Dactylorhiza insularis) and some flowering Lizard Orchids (Himantoglossum hircinum). At another site we quickly added Robust Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza elata) to the year list and soon afterwards found the first of many Common Twayblades (Listera ovata). 
Algerian Butterfly Orchid (Platanthera algeriensis).
The next day again found me looking for a new species with Juan and Beatriz, this time we were looking for Burnt Orchid (Orchis ustulata). Juan had already tracked them down a few days earlier so the plants were easily found and they were well worth the walk, also recorded was a very convincing plant of Early Purple Orchid (Orchis mascula) and some flowering Lizards. On the 25th I was at Refugio de Juana in Malaga Province seeing one of the most beautiful species we get down here the Red Helleborine (Cephalanthera rubra), I was a little earlier than last year but was pleased to find a couple of the many spikes had nice new flowers on them. I also found more Barton's Orchid, Fragrant Bug Orchid (Orchis coriophora subsp fragrans) and several plants of Epipactis tremolsii.
We were now into June and on the hunt for a species that I had long wanted to see, so the 10th found Juan and me on a Sierra near Granada looking at a private site we had been given information about and permission to visit. 
Purple Limodore (Limodorum abortivum).
We soon started to find spikes of an orchid which was not yet in flower but we could tell this was the target plant Algerian Butterfly Orchid (Platanthera algeriensis), eventually we located a single plant with a single flower which was open. On a track side nearby we also saw several spikes of the uncommon Purple Limodore (Limodorum abortivum). The 19th June found me back in the same area looking for more Red Helleborines but this time they were in my home Province of Granada, Jayne and I reached the site and located the plants but could not continue on as the power steering on the car went wrong. A few days later after a visit to the car mechanic I was in the hills again this time with Juan. We started the day by having a look at the Red Helleborines before moving onto the site were we had found the Algerian Butterfly Orchids a couple of weeks earlier hoping that they would be in flower and we were not disappointed as they were just about perfect. We did a quick count and found around 40 spikes of this rare plant. Three days later we were back but this time Ian Phillips had joined us for the day, again we started at the Red Helleborines but they had gone past their best so we moved on to a spot just down the road for Small-leaved Helleborine (Epipactis microphylla), we eventually the found a few plants Juan had seen earlier but not being the boldest spikes they took some finding. 
Epipactis fageticola.
We then headed to a new site that Juan had found for Algerian Butterfly Orchids where we found another 40 or so spikes along with loads of Robust Marsh Orchid and a few Common Twayblades. In a Poplar woodland nearby we easily found some of the hundred plus spikes of Epipactis fageticola and three more Algerian Butterflies.
Well that was about it for plants seen in flower but on a trip out with Juan later in the year we found dead / dry spikes of Epipactis cardina. Juan discovered sites for Epipactis Kleinii and White Helleborine (Cephalanthera damasonium) with dead spikes still in place and other information he has received has given us good leads on where to find Marsh Helleborine (Epipactis palustris), Birdsnest (Neottia nidus-avis), Greater Butterfly (Plantanthera chlorantha), Fragrant (Gymnadenia conopsea) and Ophrys castellana, so a good 2012 is on the horizon. 
I need to say a big thanks to Juan for getting a lot of the information to gether for our trips and for all the leg work he has done during 2011.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

Loja to Zafarraya and back again, Granada Province.

A mornings birding and looking for early signs of 2012s Orchids.

Early morning heat in the Oak Woods.
I meet Juan just of the A92 at Huétor Tajar and because of a thick layer of fog we decided to head off towards Loja and then down the valley to the west of the sierra towards Zafarraya. Our first stop was on a road side bank just before we reached Puerto de Los Alazores where we found lots of leaf rossetes of Giant (Himantoglossum robertiana) and Pyramidal Orchids (Anacamptis pyramidalia), along with at least 3 Spanish Ibex (Capra pyreaica hispanica). 
We then went up to Puerto de Los Alazores where Juan pointed out several good spots for Amphibians, along this stretch of road we recorded Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba), Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Blue Tit (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), Song (Zorzal Común / Turdus philomelos) and Mistle Thrushes (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus), Meadow Pipit (Bistita Común / Anthus pratensis) and Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros).
We continued on down the main road towards Zafarraya for a few more Kms before parking in the Oak woodlands and having another look for early signs of next years orchids. The first thing we saw was the remains of some spikes of this years Epipactis Tremolsii plants, followed by more Giant and several dead Orchis type spikes with new leaves at there base. Birds included Iberian  Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cooki), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricapilla), singing Cirl Bunting (Escribano Soteno / Emberiza cirlus), Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita), Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), Great Tit (Carbonero Común / Parus major), Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops) and Robin (Petirrrojo / Erithacus rubecula).
Further down the road we added Jay (Arrendajo / Garrulus glandarius), Skylark (Alondra Común / Alauda arvensis), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina) and Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus).
Our next stop was on the road side near Alhama de Granada to look at more dried Trmolsii along with several spikes of Sword-leaved Helleborine (Cephalanthera longifolia) and a couple of Common Buzzards (Busardo Ratonero / Buteo buteo). At the small lake called the Pantanteta de Alhama we saw several Common Pochards (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina), Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinula Chloropus), Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis) and Great Cormorant (Cormorán Grande / Phalacrocorax carbo) out on the water whilst in the woods we had nice views of a male Great Spotted Woodpecker (Pico Picapinos / Dendrocopos major) and heard a Nuthatch (Trepador Azul / Sitta europaea). On a grassey bank nearby Juan showed me some Epipactis fageticola plants, they were as expected well over with but at a new site for me. Our next stop was at Embalse de Bermejales but we saw very little at the site and only adding a single Great Crested Grebe (Somormujo Lavanco / Podiceps cristatus), Common Sandpiper (Andarrios Chico / Actitis hypoleucos) and Grey Wagtail (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea).
From here we started to make our way back towards Huétor Tájar along the Cacín Valley stopping at the Embalse on the way up. It was again very quiet but we got a male Eurasian Teal (Cerceta Común / Anas crecca), several Northern Shovelers (Cuchara Común / Anas clypeata), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea), Cetti’s Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti) and Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata) before heading back to the A92 and then home.