Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Sierra de Loja and surrounding areas, Granada Province.

Up in the hills again.
I meet Claude and Bernadette who were holidaying near by from Belgium and wanted a days wildlife watching. We started off by going up Sierra de Loja looking for mountain species, at the disused quarry above the town we started the list with a cracking male Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura) which was singing from the top of the mail crags. We also picked up several European Bee-eaters (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster) which were passing over quite high, both Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia) and Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia) which were in the main quarry and good numbers of Barn Swallows (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica), House Martins (Avión Común / Delichon urbica) and Common Swifts (Vencejo Común / Apus apus) which were all feeding over head.
Our next stop was near the Broom and Hawthorn scrub towards the top of the Crags track, in the grassy areas here we saw lots of butterflies including Spanish (Lobito listado / Pyronia bathsheba) and Southern Gatekeepers (Pyronia cecilia), Spanish Marbled White (Melanargia ines), Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina ssp hispulla), Clouded Yellow (Colias Común / Colias crocea) and Bath White (Blanqiverdosa / Pontia daplidice). Along the tops of the crags there were good numbers of Jackdaws (Grajilla / Corvus monedula) and the much more aerobatic Red-billed Choughs (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) which showed very well. Down below us in the scrub there were a couple of Subalpine Warblers (Curruca Carrasquena / Sylvia cantillans) singing from the dense cover of the Hawthorns but a male Spectacled Warbler (Curruca Tomillera / Sylvia conspicillata) performed much better sitting right in the top of a Broom plant and singing for quite a long time. Other birds here included Rock Bunting, Azure-winged Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator) and both Sardinian (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala) and Dartford Warblers (Curruca Rabilarga / Sylvia undata). We then moved out onto the tops where we quickly had the second new bird of the day for Claude (the Spec being the first) a nice well behaved Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae) which was perched on a track side rock. Up passed the marble quarry we started to see the first of the days Black-eared Wheatears (Collalba Rubia / Oenanthe hispanica) several of which were absolutely stunning males, we also added Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra) and Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata). A few more butterflies were recorded along the way including Blue Spotted Hairstreak (Mancha azul / Satyrium spini), Brown Argus (Aricia agestis), Cardinal Fritillary (Pandora / argynnis Pandora) and Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera). We next stopped off at Charca del Negro and had some good views of the Rock Sparrows we had heard earlier and also saw another male Spectacled Warbler and a pair of Common Whitethroats (Curruca Zarcera / Sylvia communis) the male had been bathing and look rather scraggy. On a small bush near by a pair of Orphean Warblers (Curruca Mirlona / Sylvia hortensis) showed very well along side a female Black-eared Wheatear. In the pool there were lots of tadpoles of the large Sharp-ribbed Salamander (Pleurodeles waltl) and eventually we managed to get views of an adult just hanging in the water. Over the pool the air was patrolled by at least 3 male Blue / Common Emperors (Anax imperator) which was quite unusual as they are a very territorial insect and I have found the remains of defeated males on the surface several times in the past. In the thistles there were several Knapweed Fritillary’s (Melitaea phoebe), Large Whites (Pieris brassicae) and Small Coppers (Lycaena phlaeas) seen. We then moved further on around to and passed the Goat Cave and on to the next crag where we had some nice views of both male and female Rufous-tailed Rock Thrushes (Roquero Rojo / Monticola saxatilis) they were both carrying food in there bills and going into a small crack in the cliff and feeding there young. In this area we had very brief views of our only Blue Rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius) of the day, nice views of Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris) and Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus).
From here we turned around and started to drop back down the sierra, on the way we had very good views of a pale phase Booted Eagle (Aguililla Calzada / Hieraaetus pennatus) which soared around in front of us before landing beside the track and then again spent 5 more minutes flying around quite close. During the drive down we also saw a large green Ocellated Lizard (Lacerta lepida) and several Rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus).
We then went and had lunch in the small bar on the main through the village of Venta del Raya before continuing down the road towards Zafarraya, we first stopped in an area of old Oak woodland hoping to see Bonelli’s Warbler (Mosquitero Papialbo / Phylloscopus bonelli) which would be another new species for Claude. We walked into the area seeing several spikes of Lizard Orchids (Himantoglossum hircinum) and some washed out Pyramidals (Orquidea pyramidal / Anacamptis pyramidalia). Before long we had a singing Bonelli’s Warbler in one of the Oaks and Claude had some nice views, as we were moving back towards the vehicle we flushed two Common Quail (Codorniz Común / Coturnix coturnix) from the side of the field and had views of a singing Woodlark (Totovia / Lullula arborea). Other species seen here included Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Crested Lark (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata) and Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricapilla). We also had a couple of Scarce Swallowtails (Chupaleches / Iphiclides podalirius feisthameli), Grayling (Hipparchia semele) and Common Blue (Icaro (Dos Puntos) / Polyommatus icarus) butterflies.
We then went on passed Zafarraya and out on to the fields to theEast where there were several species of Lark to be found, two Short-toed (Terrera Común / Calandrella brachydactyla) and Calandra (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra) were lifers for Claude and these were seen along side more Crested and Thekla’s plus Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos) and Zitting Cisticola (Buitrón / Cisticola juncidis).
Our last stop of the day was along the Salar road at a ruined Cortijo which was being used by good numbers of Lesser Kestrels (Cernicola Primilla / Falco naumanni) and Rock Sparrows. In the area we also added Red-rumped Swallow (Golondrina Dáurica / Hirundo daurica), Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis) and Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica) to the day’s list before heading back to the Motorway services at Loja. Thanks Claude and Bernadette for a very pleasant day.
Photographs from the top: Spanish Gatekeeper (Lobito listado / Pyronia bathsheba), Spectacled Warbler (Curruca Tomillera / Sylvia conspicillata), male Black-eared Wheatear (Collalba Rubia / Oenanthe hispanica), Knapweed Fritillary (Melitaea phoebe) and male Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush (Roquero Rojo / Monticola saxatilis).

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