A day with the Orchids.
On Tuesday evening I had a phone call from Bryan who was staying up on the edge of the Sierra Nevada about Orchids and the fact that there were not many about, but after taking for a while he decided that we should have a day trying to find a few and as today (Wednesday) was my only free time this week we meet at 10:00 at Hotel Cortijo de Tajar at exit 203 off the A92. We set off along the A92 and took the road down the western side of the Sierra de Loja and after just a few KMs we had our first find of the day which was a cracking group of Pink Butterfly Orchids (Orquídea mariposa / Orchis papilionacea) growing on a road side bank. Bryan soon had the camera, tripod and reflector set up and was happily getting some shots of these cracking plants (when the wind would let him). As with all wildlife photography it takes time so whilst he was getting on with the photos I had a look around and found several spikes of Yellow Bee Orchid (Ophrys lutea) which were in good condition and a few over with Fan-lipped Orchids (Orchis collina). Birds seen and heard here included Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator), Turtle Dove (Tórtola Europea / Streptopelia turtur), Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Nightingale (Ruisenor Común / Luscinia megarhynchos) and Bonelli’s Warbler (Mosquitero Papialbo / Phylloscopus bonelli).
Once the Pink-butterfly Orchids were sorted we continued on down the road to what in a normal year is probably one of the best sites for orchids I know, with 23 species being recorded during the season. But after the dry and cold of the last winter we were always going to struggle but we did have a good search and came up with lots of Conical (Orchis conica) which was the second new species for Bryan, many more Yellow Bee, Sword-leaved Helleborine (Cephalanthera longifolia), an over with Sawfly (Abejorros, flor de avispa / Ophrys tenthredinifera) which Bryan saw in good condition later near Grazalema, Giant (Barlia robertiana), Lange's (Orchis langei) rosette only, a nicely flowering Fan-lipped and several spikes of Southern Early Purple Orchid (Satirión manchado / Orchis Olbiensis) ranging from white through to deep pink. Birds seen included Subalpine Warbler (Curruca Carrasquena / Sylvia cantillans), Jay (Arrendajo / Garrulus glandarius), Common Cuckoo (Cuco Común / Cuculus canorus), Woodlark (Totovia / Lullula arborea) and Cirl Bunting (Escribano Soteno / Emberiza cirlus).
We drove on along the road and just as I said to Bryan we sometimes get Italian Man Orchids (Orchis italica) on the roadside rocks he spotted a cracking spike, so we stopped and the tripod was out again. While we were here we had a couple of Griffon Vultures (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus) drift over, at least two male Moroccan Orange Tips (Anthocharis belia) fly passed and a rather large Ladder Snake (Culebra de Escalera / Etaphe scalaris) shoot off into a large Gorse bush.
We then moved on again to a site just down the road a little nearer Zafarraya, here we found a few nice spikes of Mirror Orchid (Espejo de Venus / Ophrys speculum subsp speculum), a very tatty and not worth photographing Small Woodcock Orchid (Ophrys picta) all the plants of this species looked as though they had been hit hard by the frosts and lots of the very showy Pink-butterfly Orchids. New birds included a calling Wryneck (Torcecuello / Jynx torquilla) and a male Golden Oriole (Oropéndola / Oriolus oriolus).
Our last stop of the day was down in the pine woods that surround Embalse de Bermejales but these were particularly unproductive, we only found more Mirror, Italian Man and a few spikes of over with Ophrys forestieri. The time had gone by so quickly that it was almost 17:00 by the time I dropped Bryan back at his car and then went home.
Photographs from the top: Bryan photographing the Pink Butterflies, Pink Butterfly Orchids (Orquídea mariposa / Orchis papilionacea, Conical Orchid (Orchis conica), Sword-leaved Helleborine (Cephalanthera longifolia) and Italian Man Orchid (Orchis italica).