Adalucian Bird Society April Meeting (and the sun was out).
This morning Jacko, Andy and I were joining more birders for a mornings birding in the Sierra de Loja and an afternoon in the valley to the western side looking for Orchids. We arrived quite early so decided to go and have a look at the disused quarry to see if the Eagle Owl (Buho Real / Bubo bubo) was sat out on it’s platform and to both Jacko and Andy's great pleasure it was, as nether had seen this species before. Whist we were there we also had Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura) and Red-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax). We then headed back down and meet up with the rest of the ABS members, 16 of us in total set off up to quarry at just after 10:00 and the biggest surprise was that the sun was out after the last two years visits both being a washout. We arrived at the quarry to find that the Owl had disappeared back into its cave out of sight which was a bit disappointing but we did see the Black Wheatear, Red-billed Choughs, Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Common Cuckoo (Cuco Común / Cuculus canorus), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula) and Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor). Some of the group who waited out side the quarry also picked up Spectacled (Curruca Tomillera / Sylvia conspicillata) and Dartford Warblers (Curruca Rabilarga / Sylvia undata). Up on the very to of the rock face above the quarry we also had nice but distant views of a single Spanish Ibex (Capra pyreaica hispanica). We then started off back down the small track but stopped just before we reach the main dirt road where we had a look at some interesting plants including Linaria anticaria, Viola dementria, Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum), Spring Rockcress (Arabis verna) and Yellow Bee Orchid (Ophrys lutea). Whilst we were here we also picked up Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Bonelli’s Warbler (Mosquitero Papialbo / Phylloscopus bonelli) heard only, Red-rumped Swallow (Golondrina Dáurica / Hirundo daurica), Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus), Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator), Cirl Bunting (Escribano Soteno / Emberiza cirlus) heard only, Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus), Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa) and Coal Tit (Carbonero Garrapinos / Parus ater). In the pines on our way up to the crags we added Azure-winged Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus) and in the air there were a few Pallid (Vencejo Pálido / Apus pallidus) and Common Swifts (Vencejo Común / Apus apus), along with more Barn Swallows.
We then drove out on to the area below the northern crags and stopped above an area of Hawthorn trees and other scrub, here we picked up Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), a male Subalpine Warbler (Curruca Carrasquena / Sylvia cantillans) which sat out on the top of a hawthorn for a few seconds, Dartford Warbler (Curruca Rabilarga / Sylvia undata), both Blue (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus) and Great Tits (Carbonero Común / Parus major), several Common Stonechats (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), a singing /calling Rock Bunting which was sat nicely in a bush and more Jackdaws, Red-billed Choughs and Common Kestrels along the crags. A rather large Ladder Snake (Culebra de Escalera / Etaphe scalaris) was also seen from the track curled up amongst the herbage.
Up on the flatter tops we soon added several stunning male Black-eared Wheatears (Collalba Rubia / Oenanthe hispanica) to the day list along with Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua), the only Griffon Vulture (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus) of the day, Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina), Northern Wheatear (Collalba Gris / Oenanthe oenanthe), Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros) and Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia). We pushed on past the two pools of Charca del Negra and went around the far side of the ridge looking for and finding Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush (Roquero Rojo / Monticola saxatilis), we had some distant but very nice views of a displaying male which was heard singing and seen doing it’s display flight from the high cliffs. Along the crags in the same area we saw more Rock Sparrows, Rock Bunting, Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris), Red-billed Choughs, Blue Rock Thrushes including a female and Black Wheatear. On the way down we stopped at the Charca and had a look for but did not see Sharpe-ribbed Salamanders, but we did see some plants of Narcissus Bugei some of which were still in good nick. We continued on down at a quicker pace as lunch was calling but we still had time to call pick up a Common Whitethroat (Curruca Zarcera / Sylvia communis) which was skulking around an old tier which had been cut up to be used as a feed trough and to see a male Spectacled Warbler (Curruca Tomillera / Sylvia conspicillata) in the broom scrub above the large marble quarry and give the Eagle owl a second try before heading around to Venta del Raya for a very nice menu del dia. Jacko, Andy and I also stopped briefly on the crags again to try and get more views of the Subalpine but failed but we did hear a calling Green Woodpecker (Pito Real / Picus viridis).
We later went on down the road towards Zafarraya calling at some roadside crop fields where we soon located a couple of male Montagu's Harriers (Aguilucho Cenizo / Circus pygargus) quartering the fields below us. Then it was onwards to an area of Oak woodland where we were hoping to find a few Orchid species and it was just a few due to the dry cold winter. We started with more Yellow Bee Orchids and a well over with Sawfly Orchid (Ophrys tenthredinifera) and several Fan-lipped Orchids (Orchis collina) some of which were going over. We walked further along the woodland edge and started to find good numbers of Conical Orchids (Orchis conica) and lots of the rosettes of Lizard Orchid (Himantoglossum hircinum) which will be in flower later in June and July. We also heard and saw several species of bird including another Subalpine Warbler, Woodlark (Totovia / Lullula arborea), Jay (Arrendajo / Garrulus glandarius) and Bonelli’s Warbler. We continued to look for orchids and found Giant (Barlia robertiana), Lange's (Orchis langei) rosettes only, Southern Early Purple Orchid (Orchis Olbiensis) and Sword-leaved Helleborine (Cephalanthera longifolia). Several Species of butterfly were seen during the day including Bath White (Blanqiverdosa / Pontia daplidice), Brown Argus (Aricia agestis), Clouded Yellow (Colias Común / Colias crocea), Moroccan Orange Tip (Anthocharis belia), Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui), Sage Skipper (Muschampia proto), Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas), Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus F lyllus), Small White (Artogeia rapae), Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria), Spanish Festoon (Zerynthia rumina), Swallowtail (Papilio machaon) and Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera).
At this point some of the group continued further on down the valley but we headed back to the house as Andy had to be down on the coast later that evening. Jayne, Jacko and I finished the day with a nice meal and a few drinks out on the terrace.
Photographs from the top: Red-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), Linaria anticaria, Spring Rockcress (Arabis verna), Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush (Roquero Rojo / Monticola saxatilis), Conical Orchid (Orchis conica), Giant Orchid (Barlia robertiana), Southern Early Purple Orchid (Orchis Olbiensis) and a female Moroccan Orange Tip (Anthocharis belia).
Both the Red-billed Chough and the Rock Thrush were were taken by Stephen Powell (ABS Member), thanks Steve for letting me use them here.