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.