Rio Frio Healths Saturday morning hike (work).
David and I met the guests at the Hotel Finca Eslava and headed out to the visitors centre at El Torcal, as it had been raining during he last few days we went to one of the lesser known routes to avoid the mud of the yellow trail. As soon as we were of the car park we started to find orchids, the first were some of the later flowering Sawfly (Abejorros, flor de avispa / Ophrys tenthredinifera), Pyramidal (Orquidea pyramidal / Anacamptis pyramidalia) and Lange's Orchids (Orchis langei), which were all still in good shape. We also found several spikes of Giant Orchid (Barlia robertiana) in fruit. Amongst the Hawthorn bushes the last of the Wild Peony’s (Paeonia broteroi) were still holding on to a few bright pink petals but most were displaying their multi-coloured seeds. Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia), Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia), Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes) and Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata) were all seen in and around the scrub and several huge great shadows passed over head from the resident Griffon Vultures (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus). We crossed the road and headed out into the restricted part of the park, luckily we had David with us who also does some guiding in this area so can enter this more picturesque part of El Torcal away from the Saturday crowds. On the first part of the route I saw the locally endemic Saxifaga biternata growing from some wet rocks and Yellow Bee Orchid (Ophrys lutea). Further on we came to the rock called the hat where we had a quick break and then pushed on up and around the small labyrinths we usually take due to the forests of Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum). On this part of the hike I picked up a couple of male Blue Rock Thrushes (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius), a pair of very smart Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura) and a fine male Cirl Bunting (Escribano Soteno / Emberiza cirlus) singing from the top of a Blackthorn bush. The walk went very quickly and we were soon back at the visitors centre, on the way I saw Wild Leek (Allium ampeloprasum), Blue Alkanet (Anchusa azurea), Carduus granatensis, Blue Dreams (Chaenorrhinum Glareosum) and Wall Germander (Teucrium chamaedrys).
Photographs from the top: 2x Saxifaga biternata and Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum).