Adalucian Bird Society April meeting.
We set off up the Sierra de Loja in warm bright sunshine, IN MY DREAMS it was peeeeeing down and cold the same as last year, but eleven brave soles were willing to contend with the weather. Our first brief stop was at a small quarry just above the motorway where we picked up Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus) and Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica). We quickly moved on up through the pine woods stopping again for the first Azure-winged Magpies (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus) of the day flying between some small oaks, also seen here were Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus), Coal Tit (Carbonero Garrapinos / Parus ater) and at least 3 Woodchat Shrikes (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator). Further on we took the track up to the larger disused Quarry hoping for a view of the Eagle Owl (Buho Real / Bubo bubo) which breeds there but the rain and wind did not entice the bird out on to the ledge to be seen. In the quarry we did see a pair of Black Wheatears (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura), Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), a pair of Red-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) going in and out of their nest hole, Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia) and a male Blue Rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius) which flashed across the crags and away. On the bank over looking Loja a few of the group heard a Common Quail (Codorniz Común / Coturnix coturnix) call a couple of times and we also added Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto), Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata) and a Common Cuckoo (Cuco Común / Cuculus canorus) which did a quick fly by. Several Pyramidal Orchids (Orquidea pyramidal / Anacamptis pyramidalia) and lots of Yellow Bee Orchids (Ophrys lutea) were still in flower along with Mediterranean Kidney Vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria), Common Snapdragon (Antirrhinum major), Cerastium boissieri, Dianthus Pungens and Brown Bluebell (Dipcadi serotinum), Ground-pine Germander (Teucrium pseudochamaepitys) and Thapsia (Thapsia villosa).
We then continued on up the crags and made our way out to the goat cave and Charca del Negro, on the way we saw several Black-eared Wheatears (Collalba Rubia / Oenanthe hispanica), Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus), Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia), Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa) and a Weasel (Mustela nivalis) which was carrying a dead young Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Up near the Goat cave we were looking for Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush (Roquero Rojo / Monticola saxatilis) but only four of the group saw this species (Peter seeing two males), the rest of us had to make do with More Rock Sparrows, Rock Buntings, Blue Rock Thrush, Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris) and Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina). On the run back down we saw Viola dementria and Erodium cheilanthifolium flowering on a road side rocks and a couple of Sharp-ribbed Salamanders (Pleurodeles waltl) in Charca del Negro. We continued on down to the motorway seeing Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis) and Spectacled Warbler (Curruca Tomillera / Sylvia conspicillata) on the way. More Wildflower species were seen including Common Stork's-bill (Erodium cicutarium), Blue Hedgehog Broom (Erinacea anthyllis), Yellow Restharrow (Ononis natrix) and Upland Peony (Paeonia coriacea).
We then had a very nice Menu del Dia in the Hotel Cotijo de Tajar on the outskirts of Huetor Tajar and in the afternoon continued on to an agricultural area above the Cacín Valley. On the way we added Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Lesser Kestrel (Cernicola Primilla / Falco naumanni) and Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus) to the day list. The track was just a tad muddy so we all decanted in to the groups 4X4 vehicles and move out into the area, on the way to the ruin where we watched the area from we picked up a couple of Montagu's Harrier (Aguilucho Cenizo / Circus pygargus), a single Marsh Harrier (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus), Peregrine Falcon (Halcón Peregrino / Falco peregrinus), Calandra (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra), Crested (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata) and Short-toed Larks (Terrera Común / Calandrella brachydactyla) and the main bird we had come for 6x Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Ganga Ortega / Pterocles orientalis) which flew across the site but were distant. We parked at the ruin and quickly found two male Little Bustards (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax), Tawny Pipit (Bisbita campestre / Anthus campestris), Yellow Wagtail (Lavandera Boyera / Motacilla flava) and two Great Spotted Cuckoos (Crialo Europeo / Clamator gladarius) which flew across calling nosily. We then walked down the track a bit further adding another Little Bustard, more Larks and Marsh and Montagu's Harriers. The drivers then managed to get us off the site through the mud and back onto the road where we ended the day and we started to make our ways home.
Photographs from the top: Pyramidal Orchids (Orquidea pyramidal / Anacamptis pyramidalia), Black-eared Wheatears (Collalba Rubia / Oenanthe hispanica), Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Erodium cheilanthifolium and Blue Hedgehog Broom (Erinacea anthyllis).