Axarquia Bird Group Meeting.
On the way down to the meeting point I called at a few places along the road between Salar and Zafarraya. The first stop was at a disused Cortijo on the side of the road where I picked up a small flock of Rock Sparrows (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia) perched on the wires and a Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua) which was sat on the roof trying to get a bit of warmth from the early sun. In the same area I picked up a couple of Jackdaws (Grajilla / Corvus monedula) sitting on a telegraph pole, Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer Domesticus) and Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica). I then drove on over the large agricultural area on the road to Zafarraya, here I made several stops and added Crested (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata), Thekla (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Calandra (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra) and Skylarks (Alondra Común / Alauda arvensis), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor) and White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba). The next stop was to see if any of the Giant Orchids (Barlia robertiana) were in flower, I was quite surprised when I got to the site to find the ground was crisp from quite a heavy overnight frost. The area was carpeted in the blue flowers of the Wide-leaved Iris (Iris planifolia), along with the second Orchid species of the year Giant Orchid, most were not yet in bloom but some were just about spot on and fresh. Birds here included a couple of Mallards (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos) on the treatment works, Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita) which was in full song, Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Great Tit (Carbonero Común / Parus major), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Robin (Petirrrojo / Erithacus rubecula) and Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus).
I then continued up to the meeting point on the walk way just on the outskirts of Venta de Zafarraya, it was cold in the shade of the hills so while I was waiting for the group to arrive I walked a short way up the track to get in the sun. Bob Wright and the others arrived and we had a walk along the track for a couple of Kms and then back. Before we had reached the tunnel we had seen Red-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes) Heard only, Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia), Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia), House (Avión Común / Delichon urbica) and Crag Martins (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris), Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura) and Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros). Several species of Butterfly were seen including very good numbers of Spanish Festoon (Zerynthia rumina), Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae), Large (Pieris brassicae), Small (Artogeia rapae) and Bath Whites (Pontia daplidice), Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) and Clouded Yellow (Colias crocea). On the far side of the tunnel we saw Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Blue Rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina), Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricapilla) and Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata).
The next location was back at the orchid site as several of the group had not seen Giant Orchid before.
We then returned to the cars and drove out to an area Bob calls the Brambling fields on the road between Zafarraya and Alhama de Granada were we stopped on the road side and quickly added a small group of Azure-winged Magpies (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus)to the list, there was also a flock of around 75 Red-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) circling away in the distance, Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae) and a single Cleopatra butterfly (Cleopatra / Gonepteryx cleopatra) which flew in front of the car as we left to go to the fields a little further on. Here we soon found the first Northern Wheatear (Collalba Gris / Oenanthe oenanthe) of the year for every one in the group, Calandra Lark (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra) and a single Short-toed Lark (Terrera Común / Calandrella brachydactyla) which did a quick fly past.
We then move on to the Pantaneta de Alhama a small pool just south of the town, on the water there were a few Common Pochard (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina), Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra) and a Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis) and in the woods we picked up Green Woodpecker (Pito Real / Picus viridis)heard only, Cetti’s Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti), Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla), Firecrest (Reyezuelo Listado / Regulus ignicapillus) heard only and an early singing Subalpine Warbler (Curruca Carrasquena / Sylvia cantillans) which also remained elusive at the top of a thick pine tree. On the way back to the cars a single Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea) flew over the reeds and four Great Cormorants (Cormorán Grande / Phalacrocorax carbo) flew off and away from the pool. A Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) was also seen just before we set off back to Venta de Zafarraya and lunch. I then headed off home picking up a couple of Stone-curlews (Alcaraván Común / Burhinus oedicnemus), Zitting Cisticola (Buitrón / Cisticola juncidis) and Cattle Egret (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis) on the way.
Photographs from the top: Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia), Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua), Giant Orchid (Barlia robertiana), Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura), Group at Venta de Zafarraya, Wide-leaved Iris (Iris planifolia) and Group at Orchid site.