Searching for a couple of Skulkers.
Today I meet up with Robert Carr from the UK over in Ronda for a very targeted days birding as he had just two species he wanted to see, Olivaceous (Zarcero Pálido / Hippolais pallida) and Orphean Warblers (Curruca Mirlona / Sylvia hortensis).
We left the super-sol car park on the edge of Ronda and drove out to the first site which was a stretch of well vegetated river bank about 15 minutes away and by just after 08:00 bird one was on his list. Whilst we were here we had cracking views of both male and female Golden Oriole (Oropéndola / Oriolus oriolus) with the latter sat right out in the open at the top of a poplar tree. Other birds included lots of Nightingales (Ruisenor Común / Luscinia megarhynchos) and Cetti’s Warblers (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti), Grey Wagtail (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Blue (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus) and Great Tits (Carbonero Común / Parus major), Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricapilla) and Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes). We then moved up towards Montejaque but called at and spent quite a while along a stretch of oak woodland looking for our second Warbler target, this time we were not so lucky and except for one brief call we saw no sign of any Orphean’s. We did however get nice views of Hawfinch (Picogordo / Coccotraustes coccotraustes), Subalpine (Curruca Carrasquena / Sylvia cantillans) and Bonelli’s Warblers (Mosquitero Papialbo / Phylloscopus bonelli), a cracking Great Spotted Woodpecker (Pico Picapinos / Dendrocopos major) which showed particularly well, a Wryneck (Torcecuello / Jynx torquilla) which gave us the briefest of flight views and a beautiful little Firecrest (Reyezuelo Listado / Regulus ignicapillus). During the walk back down to the car we heard distant European Bee-eater (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster) and Common Cuckoo (Cuco Común / Cuculus canorus) and had views of Nuthatch (Trepador Azul / Sitta europaea), Robin (Petirrrojo / Erithacus rubecula), several Short-toed Treecreepers (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla) and the days first Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator).
Next was a drive into the fabulous Libar Valley which runs between the crags of Sierra de Juan Diego and Sierra de Montalate and is one of the most picturesque places I have had the pleasure of birding in. When first arrived we parked the car and had a walk for a way up the track checking the Almond and Olive groves in the first part of the valley and then the hawthorn scrub further up. On the crags as we started out we picked up Alpine Swift (Vencejo Real / Apus melba) several birds were entering a small hole in the cliff face, Blue Rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius), Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia) and Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula). Further on we had several more Woodchats, lots of Melodious (Zarcero Común / Hippolais polyglotta), a single Dartford (Curruca Rabilarga / Sylvia undata) and then a nice pair of the omnipresent Sardinian Warblers (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala). As the bushes got smaller and the rocks got bigger we started to see the first Black Wheatears (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura) of the day, along with Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia), Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Pallid Swift (Vencejo Pálido / Apus pallidus) and in the air Griffon Vultures (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus) soared along with a few migrating Honey Buzzards (Aberjero Europeo / Pernis apivorus) and a single Bonelli's Eagle (Aguila-azor Perdicera / Hieraaetus faciatus). We still had not seen any sign of the wanted warbler so I went back down and fetched the car whist Robert waited back up the track, we then continued on up the valley to another area of oak trees and with in a couple of minutes I was hearing a call that made me and Robert very happy, now all we had to do was see the thing. After a few minutes moving slowly towards the singing bird it broke from cover and landed in the bottom of an evergreen oak not to far away and then went into a small shrub. Over the next ten minutes we had nice views of the bird, seeing all the relevant features including the pale eye. On the way up we also saw a few butterflies which included Bath White (Blanqiverdosa / Pontia daplidice), Cleopatra (Cleopatra / Gonepteryx cleopatra), Clouded Yellow (Colias Común / Colias crocea), Common Blue (Icaro (Dos Puntos) / Polyommatus icarus), Large Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis polychlorus), an early Lorquin's Blue (Cupido lorquinii), several Moroccan Orange Tips (Anthocharis belia), Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui), Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas), Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus F lyllus), Small White (Artogeia rapae), Spanish Festoon (Zerynthia rumina), Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria) and Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera). Wildflower seen included Bean Trefoil (Anagyris foetida), Common Snapdragon (Antirrhinum major), White Asphodel (Asphodelus albus), Buckler Mustard (Biscutella frutescens), Southern Knapweed (Centaurea pullata ssp pullata), Laurel-leaved Cistus (Cistus laurifolius), Small Pink Cistus (Cistus crispus), Soft Stork's-bill (Erodium malacoides), Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum) and the Figwort (Scrophularia sambucifolia subsp.sambucifolia). With the pressure off we went down into Montejaque and had a coffee and bought a sandwich for later before heading up to a site near to Grazalema for some orchids. On the way we had lots of Hairy Blue Lupin (Lupinus micranthus) growing on the roadside verge, Linnets (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina) which flew up off the roadside, Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa), Turtle Dove (Tórtola Europea / Streptopelia turtur) and lots more Griffon Vultures. As soon as we arrived at the site we could hear another Orphean Warbler singing from one of the scattered oak trees, we later had brief views of this second bird. Around the damper spots we started to find some orchids but only a fraction of what usually flower here, they included around a 100 or so Champagne Orchids (Orchis Champagneuxii) and some of their hybrids O.gennarii with Pink Butterfly Orchid (Orquídea mariposa / Orchis papilionacea) but none of the latter side of the pairing were seen this year. We also found 3 plants of the uncommon Algarve Bee Orchid (Ophrys algarviensis), a few Yellow Bee Orchids (Ophrys lutea) and a single Tongue Orchid (Serapias lingua). New birds included Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis) and a Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua) which dropped off the roof of a small building and instantly disappeared. We then had a drive back down the road towards Ronda before turning up the track towards old Ronda and then back across country to the starting point at Super-sol, on the way we only added Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra) and Crested Lark (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata) to the day list.
Robert then made his way back down to the coast and I left for home but called in at Laguna Dulce near Campillos on the way but bird numbers were much lower that on my last visit. Even so I saw lots of Eurasian Coots (Focha Común / Fulica atra) and Great Crested Grebes (Somormujo Lavanco / Podiceps cristatus) which seemed to be about the two commonest species. Also present were Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), Northern Shoveler (Cuchara Común / Anas clypeata), Gadwall (Anade Friso / Anas strepera) and both Common (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina) and Red-crested Pochards (Pato Colorado / Netta rufina), Little (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis) and Black-necked Grebes (Zampullín Cuellinegro / Podiceps nigricollis) and a single male White-headed Duck (Malvasia Cabeciblanca / Oxyura leucocephala). On the shore a few waders were seen including three migrating Curlew Sandpipers (Correlimos Zarapitin / Calidris ferruginea) along with the breeding Black-winged Stilts (Ciguenuela Común / Himantopus himantopus) and Little Ringed Plovers (Chorlitejo Chico / Charadrius dubius). Other species seen included Gull-billed Tern (Pagaza Piconegra / Gelochelidon nilotica), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinula Chloropus) and several Greater Flamingo’s (Flamenco Común / Phoenicopterus ruber). I then drove home picking up a female Montagu's Harrier (Aguilucho Cenizo / Circus pygargus) on the way and once I was at home and the light started to fade I added a single Stone Curlew (Alcaraván Común / Burhinus oedicnemus) and at least 3 Red-necked Nightjars (Chotacabras Cuellirrojo / Caprimulgus ruficollis) which were calling from out in the olives, a nice way to end the day.
Photographs from the top: Robert in Llanos de Libar, A view down Llanos de Libar, Moroccan Orange Tips (Anthocharis belia), Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas), Figwort (Scrophularia sambucifolia subsp.sambucifolia), 2x O.gennarii, Algarve Bee Orchid (Ophrys algarviensis) and flower covered fields near old Ronda.