A day out with the Orchid experts.
Today was a trip I had been looking forward to for a while, after hearing so much about and reading so many of his papers on the Ophrys fusca group I was at last going to meet Michael Lowe. Ian Phillips an Orchid expert from Malaga , Michael and I were meeting in Ardales but not until 10:30 so I thought that I would make the most of the day and start out a little early and have a look at Laguna Dulce on the way over. Just before I pulled into the slip road down to the hide I picked up the first nice find of the day a Black-winged Kite (Elanio Común / Elanus caeruleus) which was perched in a road side Almond tree preening. I parked and walked to the hide in the surrounding trees several Corn Buntings (Triguero / Emberiza calandra) were rattling out their song, along with a Cetti’s Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti), a couple of Common Chiffchaffs (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), several Serin’s (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis) and a nice Robin (Petirrrojo / Erithacus rubecula) which was perched on one of the posts holding up the screening singing for all he was worth. From the hide there were good numbers of birds to be scanned through, the commonest were probably Eurasian Coots (Focha Común / Fulica atra), Black-headed Gulls (Gaviota Riedora / Larus ridibundus) and Common Pochards (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina). Also plentiful were the smarter of the two Pochards the Red-crested (Pato Colorado / Netta rufina) variety, with around 50 birds off to the right of the pool and on the far shore, mixed in with these birds were at least 6 Tufted Ducks (Porrón Monudo / Aythya fuligula) 4 males and 2 females but as hard as I tried I could not find any of the 4 reported Ferruginous Ducks (Porrón Pardo / Aythya nyroca) seen a few day earlier. During the scan along the right side of the pool I picked up 2 male Garganey (Cerceta Carretona / Anas querquedula) and 2 female types but at the distance I was viewing them they could have been Eurasian Teal (Cerceta Común / Anas crecca) as there were a few about including a group of 6 cracking looking males. Continuing the scan I added 6 male Northern Pintail (Ánade Rabudo / Anas acuta), Northern Shoveler (Cuchara Común / Anas clypeata), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), White-headed Duck (Malvasia Cabeciblanca / Oxyura leucocephala), Little (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis), Great Crested (Somormujo Lavanco / Podiceps cristatus) and Black-necked Grebes (Zampullín Cuellinegro / Podiceps nigricollis), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinula Chloropus) and Great Cormorant (Cormorán Grande / Phalacrocorax carbo). Down the left hand side I then picked up a group of 4 Glossy Ibis (Morito Común / Plegadis falcinellus) which were preening before they pushed on probably over to wards the Donana and at least 7 Purple Swamp-hen (Calamón Común / Porphyrio porphyrio) a species I had not seen at the site before. On the margins just Infront of the hide a couple of pairs of Black-winged Stilts (Ciguenuela Común / Himantopus himantopus) were feeding along with singles of Little Ringed Plover (Chorlitejo Chico / Charadrius dubius) and Common Sandpiper (Andarrios Chico / Actitis hypoleucos) and on the far shore there was a flock of 13 Black-tailed Godwits (Aguja Colinegra / Limosa limosa) getting ready to move on further North (well they had gone by the time I got back in the afternoon).
A few Barn Swallows (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica), House Martins (Avión Común / Delichon urbica) and Common Swifts (Vencejo Común / Apus apus) were all in the air. Other birds seen included Snipe (Agachadiza Común / Gallinago gallinago), Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa), Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea), Crested (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata) and Calandra Larks (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra), House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer Domesticus), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula) and Lesser Black-backed Gull (Gaviota Somria / Larus fuscus).
I still had some time so I made my way around to Laguna Salada where I was pleasantly surprised to see that the water level was still quite good even after this very dry winter. On a small spit around 30 Greater Flamingo’s (Flamenco Común / Phoenicopterus ruber) were roosting while a few were out in the deeper water Feeding, along with lots of Black-Headed Gulls, Northern Shoveler, Common Pochard, Mallard, Eurasian Coot and Cattle Egret (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis). In the surrounding Tamarisks good numbers of Common Chiffchaffs were in full song as were the resident Cetti’s Warblers.
My next quick stop was at Observatorio Penarrubia just off the main road to Teba, Here I found a single Griffon Vulture (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus) sat on the cliffs and another which just drifted past, Red-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala) and on the Embalse a single Great Crested Grebe.
I then made my way to the meeting point in a bar (now there’s a surprise) just before the town of Ardales, I arrived first and had a coffee and then Michael and Ian came in and we sat and chatted for some time before heading out to a site near the Embalse del Conde de Guadalhorce. On a slope in a fairly dense area of Pine woodland we quickly started to find some of the Ophrys fusca group of Orchids we had come to look for, the first was Ophrys Malacitana which was quickly followed by Ophrys subfusca and a couple of Fan-lipped Orchids (Orchis collina). Whilst we walked around we saw a couple of Green Hairstreaks (Callophrys rubi), Large (Pieris brassicae) and Small White (Artogeia rapae), Spanish Festoon (Zerynthia rumina) and Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera).
We next went back to Ardales and out on the road towards El Burgo where on a roadside bank we came across a colony of the other Orchid we were looking for Somber-bee Orchid (Ophrys fusca subsp fusca), along with Wide-leaved Iris (Iris planifolia), Iberis pectinata, Field Marigold (Calendula arvensis), Common Stork's-bill (Erodium cicutarium) and White Mignonette (Reseda Alba). We continued on along this road and turned towards Casarabonela but stopped at the highest point along this road and had a short walk in the pine woods finding very little before having a drive around the tracks on the mountain opposite. Along here we found no Orchids mainly due to the hard frosts and lack of rain but we did see Common Crossbill (Piquituerto Común / Loxia curvirostra), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia), Great Tit (Carbonero Común / Parus major), another Green Hairstreak, several Cleopatra’s (Cleopatra / Gonepteryx cleopatra) and a couple of plants of Narcissus cantabricus.
I then said goodbye to Ian and Michael and headed back to Ardales and then called back in at Laguna Dulce where new species for the day included a calling Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua), Common Buzzard (Busardo Ratonero / Buteo buteo) and a flock of around 20 Little Bustards (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax) which flew over the fields to the rear of the laguna.
The day lists ended on, 82 species of bird and 4 species of Orchid.
Photographs from the top: Michael and Ian, Garganey (Cerceta Carretona / Anas querquedula), Ophrys Malacitana, Ophrys subfusca, Fan-lipped Orchids (Orchis collina), Green Hairstreaks (Callophrys rubi) and Somber-bee Orchid (Ophrys fusca subsp fusca).