A day with the Axarquia bird group.
Today I was birding with friends from the Axarquia bird group on Sierra de Loja which is probably my favourite place to visit. We meet on the car park of the Abades service area before taking the dirt track up thought the pine woodlands to the disused Quarry above the town of Loja where we were hoping to see the resident Eagle Owl (Buho Real / Bubo bubo) but we were out of luck but we did see some cracking species including Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris), Blue Rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius), Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura), Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus), Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes), Red-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) and Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia). Some of the group were also looking for the Wild flowers and we soon found Brown Bluebell (Dipcadi serotinum), Dianthus Pungens, Mediterranean Kidney Vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria), White Asphodel (Asphodelus albus), Buckler Mustard (Biscutella frutescens), Southern Knapweed (Centaurea pullata ssp pullata), Chickweed (Cerastium boissieri), Clypeola (Clypeola jonthlaspi), Common Stork's-bill (Erodium cicutarium), Helianthemum lavandulifolium, Linaria anticaria, Southern Wild Tulip (Tulipa sylvestris ssp australis) which were well past their best and Tassel Hyacinth (Muscari comosum) along with some Orchids species including Pyramidal (Orquidea pyramidal / Anacamptis pyramidalia), Small Woodcock (Ophrys picta) but find of the day goes to the Hybrid between Ophrys Picta X Sawfly Orchid (Ophrys tenthredinifera) which was a new plant for me and is also probably a new record for Granada Province! Several species of butterfly were also recorded which included some very nice male Moroccan Orange Tips (Anthocharis belia), Knapweed Fritillary (Melitaea phoebe), Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui), Panoptes Blue (Pseudophilotes panoptes), Grizzled Skipper (Pyrgus malvaei), Clouded Yellow (Colias Común / Colias crocea) and Bath White (Blanqiverdosa / Pontia daplidice). Up high on the top of the cliffs there were some of the local Spanish Ibex (Capra pyreaica hispanica) which always seem to be in the same place these days.
We then moved on and our next stops were along the crags, on the way through the woods I saw and heard Blue (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus), Great (Carbonero Común / Parus major), Coal (Carbonero Garrapinos / Parus ater) and Long-tailed Tits (Mito / Aegithalos caudatus), Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Turtle Dove (Tórtola Europea / Streptopelia turtur), Azure-winged Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus) and Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus).
Once we were on the crags we added Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula), Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus), Alpine (Vencejo Real / Apus melba), Common (Vencejo Común / Apus apus) and Pallid Swifts (Vencejo Pálido / Apus pallidus), House Martin (Avión Común / Delichon urbica) and a very nice sub adult Golden Eagle (Águila Real / Aquila chrysaetos) to the days list, the latter showing very well whilst being mobbed by Red-billed Choughs and Jackdaws. Lower down in the hawthorn bushes and Herb scrub we picked up Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis) and a female Common Whitethroat (Curruca Zarcera / Sylvia communis) which was a bit of a surprise.
More wildflowers were seen in this area including Carduus granatensis, Nonea vesicaria, Navel-wort (Omphalodes commutate), Yellow Restharrow (Ononis natrix), Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum), Pallenis spinosa, Common Poppy (Papaver rhoeas), Silvery Paronychia (Paronychia argentea), Phlomis purpurea, Miniature Wild Plum (Prunus prostrate), Star Clover (Trifolium stellatum) and Viola dementria.
We continued on up and stopped just above the marble quarry to have a look at some Rock Sparrows (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia) which the lead car had spotted whilst we were he we also added Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa), a fine male and more drab female Black-eared Wheatear (Collalba Rubia / Oenanthe hispanica), House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer Domesticus), the first of the days Griffon Vultures (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus) and the second Golden Eagle which again showed well but a little more briefly. Large White (Pieris brassicae), Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta), Scarce Swallowtail (Chupaleches / Iphiclides podalirius feisthameli), Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas), Spanish Festoon (Zerynthia rumina) and Spanish Marbled White (Melanargia ines) were all seen during this stop. Continuing on up the hill we stopped briefly by the first of the Water deposito’s and saw the first Thekla Larks (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae) and a single Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra) which did a very quick fly passed. We then made our way up to Charca del Negro just stopping briefly to look at three Griffon Vultures which were soaring out beyond the wind turbines and a little further on by a nice plants of Iris Subbiflora and Blue Hedgehog Broom (Erinacea anthyllis) flowering amongst the rocks and once the others had moved on I remained to water the plants and picked up a smart Large Tortoiseshell (Nymphalis polychlorus) but unfortunately it just passed straight through. At Charca there were more Black-eared Wheatears, Rock Sparrows, Rock Buntings, Black Redstarts and Red-billed Choughs. Here we also saw loads of Spanish Festoons, Knapweed Fritillary's (Melitaea phoebe) and the only dragonfly of the day which was a male Blue / Common Emperor (Anax imperator). We next went on around past the goat cave to the crag a little further on were we eventually had some distant views of a female Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush (Roquero Rojo / Monticola saxatilis), lots more Rock Sparrows, a male Blue Rock Thrush and a surprising sighting of a Black Kite (Milano Negro / Milvus migrans). I had a walk up amongst the rocks and found several patches of the very nice Erodium cheilanthifolium, Eruca sativa, Antirrhinum controversum and Blue Dreams (Chaenorrhinum Glareosum). I also saw a single Cardinal Fritillary (Pandora / argynnis Pandora) whilst having a wander but it was off and out of sight in seconds.
I then split from the rest of the group when they went to have a look at another spot for the Rock Thrush as I wanted to try and get some better shots of the Butterflies on the thistles around the pools. I had soon found a nice camera tolerant Knapweed Fritillary and several Spanish Festoons along with Common Blue (Icaro (Dos Puntos) / Polyommatus icarus), Small White (Artogeia rapae), Brown Argus (Aricia agestis), Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus F lyllus) and Spanish Gatekeeper (Lobito listado / Pyronia bathsheba). I walked along the low crags at the rear of the pools where I found several patches of Saxifraga Camposii, Sarcocapnos pulcherrima, Spanish Bluebell (Scilla hispanica), Biting Stonecrop (Sedum acre) the dry flower spikes of Narcissus Bugei. On the rocks I also saw several Iberian Wall Lizards (Podarcis hispanica), a single Large Psammodromus (Emys orbicularis) and a couple of Moorish Gecko’s (Tarenrola mauritanica).
I then started to make my way down the hill just stopping to get a shot of a great big Ocellated Lizard (Lacerta lepida) before stopping at an area of broom scrub to look for the summering Spectacled Warblers (Curruca Tomillera / Sylvia conspicillata), I quickly located a singing bird in the top of one of the broom bushes but it was quickly chased of by a male Dartford Warbler (Curruca Rabilarga / Sylvia undata). The Spectacled was soon back but remained amongst the branches and was difficult to get shots of, as I was watching this bird a falcon suddenly came into view and started to chase a couple of Common Swifts that were over the quarry and I soon realized that I had a nice Hobby (Alcotán Europeo / Falco subbuteo) in my bins. I then dropped further down the hill and found a couple of Black-eared Whearears and a Thekla Lark which were willing to stay put long enough for me to get some shots and also stopped again and picked up another of the summer visiting warblers, this time it was a nice male Subalpine Warbler (Curruca Carrasquena / Sylvia cantillans) which was showing nicely but from the top of a Hawthorn bush some way down the slope. In the woods a couple of Common Crossbills (Piquituerto Común / Loxia curvirostra) flew up from the side of the track and a Common Cuckoo (Cuco Común / Cuculus canorus) crossed the track in front of me. By know it was getting on for 18:30 so I started to head back towards home as we had plans to go down to Huétor to watch the fire works which signalled the start of a few days of Fiesta.
Photographs from the top: Pyramidal (Orquidea pyramidal / Anacamptis pyramidalia), Ophrys Picta X Sawfly Orchid (Ophrys tenthredinifera), Steve Powell photographing the butterflies, Viola dementria, Knapweed Fritillary (Melitaea phoebe), female Black-eared Wheatear (Collalba Rubia / Oenanthe hispanica), Iris Subbiflora, the ladies looking at the Iris, Erodium cheilanthifolium, Ocellated Lizard (Lacerta lepida), Spectacled Warbler (Curruca Tomillera / Sylvia conspicillata), male Black-eared Wheatear and Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae).