A morning in the mountains seeing some of my favorite birds.
Got up to a nice morning with a few more clouds around than usual but the sun was trying hard to brake through, so I decided to carry on with last nights idea of a trip up Sierra de Loja. On the way over I started the list with a small flock of around 25 Azure-winged Magpies (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus), several Common Chaffinches (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Crested Lark (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus) and Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica).
Just as I started to make my way up the Sierra from the town of Loja I picked up 2 late Honey Buzzards (Aberjero Europeo / Pernis apivorus) moving west along with the first of 11 Marsh Harriers (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus) seen during the morning (all female of immature birds). Once I was clear of the pine woods I started to see the expected Thekla Larks (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Rock Sparrows (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia) and Common Stonechats (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata) either perched on rocks or making use of the road side barriers. Along the crags good numbers of both Jackdaws (Grajilla / Corvus monedula) and Red-billed Choughs (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) called noisily as they chased around the cliff faces. Once up on the more level areas I pushed on to the first of the water collection buildings to have a look for any remaining Rufous-tailed Rock Thrushes (Roquero Rojo / Monticola saxatilis) that may be hanging around. I parked right next to the building and got some nice views of several Rock Sparrows, Black Redstarts (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros) and several Northern Wheatears (Collalba Gris / Oenanthe oenanthe). After about 10 minutes a bird jumped up on to a rock and sat there for some time, giving me chance to roll down the hill, park right across the road and get some nice views and a couple of shots. Also around here I added a late skulking Spectacled Warbler (Curruca Tomillera / Sylvia conspicillata) moving though the low thyme plants, Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua) which was screeching from a nearby rock pile and a small flock of Corn Buntings (Triguero / Emberiza calandra) which flew by. I then continued on up to Charca del Negro and on to the Goat Cave where Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris), Blue Rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius), Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa) were added along with a migrating flock of Sparrowhawks (Gavilán Común / Accipiter nisus), I counted 19 birds over a few minutes.
On the way down I saw two large Spanish Ibex (Capra pyreaica hispanica) moving through one of the mountain top fields, Several flocks of Spotless Starlings (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor) and around 10 Whinchats (Tarabilla Nortena / Saxicola rubetra) all in a small track side field. A Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis), Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops) and a male Blue Rock Thrush were all seen perched in the same large Hawthorn bush, with the Shrike right on top singing its head off. On my way back down passed the crags I eventually saw the first Black Wheatears (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura) of the morning and added Great Tit (Carbonero Común / Parus major), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Common Crossbill (Piquituerto Común / Loxia curvirostra), Pied Flycatcher (Papamoscas Cerrojillo / Ficedula hypoleuca) and Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla) to the list. On the track up to and at the disused Quarry Dartford (Curruca Rabilarga / Sylvia undata) and Sardinian Warblers (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala) were seen, along with Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus), Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis) and a single Meadow Pipit (Bistita Común / Anthus pratensis).
Photographs from the top: Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia), Common Stonechats (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Rufous-tailed Rock Thrushes (Roquero Rojo / Monticola saxatilis) and Spanish Ibex (Capra pyreaica hispanica).