Saturday, 9 June 2012

Day one. Sierra Morena, Jaen Province.

In search of Mammals and more.
I left home quite early for the drive up to Sierra Morena in Jaen Province where I was meeting up with the Atchison family, I had been contacted by Dan about spending a couple of days in the area looking for the Pardel Lynx. I had explained straight away that it was far from the best time of the year and that the chances were slim but he was happy to have ago. As I drove down the road at the Huétor end of the journey I started the list off with a flyby Red-necked Nightjar (Chotacabras Cuellirrojo / Caprimulgus ruficollis) and a Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua) which was perched on the top of a telegraph pole.
I arrived early in the area as I was not meeting Dan till lunch time, so I spent the morning along the near by Rio Guadalen and I was very pleased that I did as I added a new Mammal to my list, I had very nice views of an Otter (Lutra lutra) as it was feeding amongst the rocky pools near the Dam. Also seen were several Red Deer (Cervus elaphus), lots of Rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) and two rather large looking Iberian Hares (Lepus europaeus / capensis) and on the bird front I had some very nice close views of Azure-winged Magpies (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus) coming down to the picnic tables, Golden Oriole (Oropéndola / Oriolus oriolus), Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops), European Bee-eater (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster), Hawfinch (Picogordo / Coccotraustes coccotraustes), Turtle Dove (Tórtola Europea / Streptopelia turtur) and Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator). I also picked up a few early morning butterflies which included Cleopatra (Cleopatra / Gonepteryx cleopatra), Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina ssp hispulla), Small White (Artogeia rapae) and Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus F lyllus).
I then returned to the Hostel and the meeting point where I added 6 Griffon Vultures (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus), Barn (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica) and Red-rumped Swallows (Golondrina Dáurica / Hirundo daurica), Green Woodpecker (Pito Real / Picus viridis) and Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala) to the list before I met the group.
The first thing we did was to go and have some lunch as it was warm and we felt that it was better to eat early and stay out in the field as late as possible. After a very nice meal we went out along one of the local roads which after a few km turns into a dirt track before it reaches the Embalse de Jandula, as we drove along we made quite a few stops. The first was to have a look out along a large fire break which runs along the top of one of the higher ridges, we found our first Fallow Deer (Dama dama) here and quite a collection of butterflies which were coming down to the thyme plants on the road side. They included Ilex Hairstreak (Satyrium ilicis), Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas), Small White (Artogeia rapae), Bath White (Blanqiverdosa / Pontia daplidice), Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris) and Spanish Gatekeeper (Lobito listado / Pyronia bathsheba). We continued on to a point amongst the Oak where we again stopped, this time we had decent views of and heard a male Orphean Warbler (Curruca Mirlona / Sylvia hortensis) which spent quite a while circling us through the trees. We also added Woodchat Shrike, Golden Oriole, Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus), Little Owl and Jay (Arrendajo / Garrulus glandarius) to the Atchison’s list. We also increased the butterfly count by seeing Cardinal Fritillary (Pandora / argynnis Pandora), Spanish Marbled White (Melanargia ines) and Southern Gatekeeper (Pyronia cecilia). We eventually reached the dam and fairly quickly picked up several Crag (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris) and House Martins (Avión Común / Delichon urbica), Blue Rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes), White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba), Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto) and Common Swift (Vencejo Común / Apus apus). We had a walk across the dam and through the tunnel on the far side and out into the woodland the other side. Along the very edge of the track Matt or Dam found several well preserved prints of the animal we were looking for in the very fine mud, they were so detailed that the hairs between the pads could be seen. Along here we also saw Long-tailed Tit (Mito / Aegithalos caudatus), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricapilla), Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia) and Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor). On some damaged Fennel spikes there were some Violet Dropwing (Trithemis annulata) dragonflies, conveniently there were an adult male, adult female and a teneral insects all in a row. We then retraced our tracks back through the tunnel and out on to the dam where we scoped a distant Black Storks (Ciguena Negra / Ciconia nigra) nest on a crag on the far shore of the Embalse and had brief but good views of a couple of White-rumped Swifts (Vencejo Cafre / Apus caffer) which disappeared off down the river. We then moved back up into the sierra and made a couple of stops along the dirt track on the way back. At the first stop we found a single Mouflon (Ovis orientalis) which was hiding in a small cave away on the next ridge and also picked up a very nice Goshawk (Azor Común / Accipitor gentillis) as it soared away towards the Embalse. We then got our only view of a Spanish Imperial Eagle (Aguila Imperial Ibérica / Aguila adalberti) of the trip which just bobbed up above the ridge for about 20 seconds and then went back down out of view. We moved on and stopped again further on, this time we had extensive views out over the surrounding countryside so we stayed for quite a while scanning the clearings and tracks. Whist we were here we did added a couple more species to the bird list including Black Vulture (Buitre Negro / Aegypius monachus) with several drifting low over heard, Dartford (Curruca Rabilarga / Sylvia undata) and Subalpine Warblers (Curruca Carrasquena / Sylvia cantillans), Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus), Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica), Pallid Swift (Vencejo Pálido / Apus pallidus) and Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis). We did not get any sighting of the Lynx but saw some cracking Birds, Butterflies and Mammals before we headed back to the accommodation and had our evening meal.

Photographs from the top: Rio Guadalen, Southern Gatekeeper (Pyronia cecilia), Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris) and View.

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