A couple of hours birding with Bob Wright.
Jayne and I set off down to Torre del Mar on the Malaga coast, on the way we passed Salar and made our way through the Oak woodlands above the town before dropping down through the agricultural areas between Alhama de Granada and Zafarraya. In the area of oaks we had several Azure-winged Magpies (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus) and a couple of Jays (Arrendajo / Garrulus glandarius) fly across the road Infront of us and in the bushes at the roadside I saw Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra) and Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula). Out in the more open areas there were very good numbers of Lesser Kestrels (Cernicola Primilla / Falco naumanni), one perched every 50meters or so along the telegraph wires. In the same area we also had Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina), European Bee-eater (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster), Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Crested Lark (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata), Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops) and Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis). We turned off the Alhama road and headed towards Zafarraya, out in the Agricultural areas we started to pick up a few Short-toed (Terrera Común / Calandrella brachydactyla), Thekla (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae) and Calandra Larks (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra), along with Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto), House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer Domesticus) and Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor) around the farms. In the air we added Pallid (Vencejo Pálido / Apus pallidus) and Common Swifts (Vencejo Común / Apus apus), House Martin (Avión Común / Delichon urbica) and Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica) to the day list.
I dropped Jayne off in the town and went and met Bob who had been at the site since 08:00 on my drive down to the pump house I picked up a skulking Melodious Warbler (Zarcero Común / Hippolais polyglotta), Cattle Egret (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinula Chloropus), Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos) and a Turtle Dove (Tórtola Europea / Streptopelia turtur) which flushed of the overhead wires.
We started by watching a family group of 3 or four immature Spotted Flycatchers (Papamoscas Gris / Muscicapa striata), the first of several Monk Parakeets (Cotorra Argentina / Myiopsitta monachus), Serin and Zitting Cisticola (Buitrón / Cisticola juncidis), by the pump house before moving down to the beach. On the way we saw some more young Spotted Flycatchers and a Cetti’s Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti).
Bob also got the chance to practice some of his dance moves dodging all the piles of crap as the dirty gits that use the beach seem to think it’s ok to use the track as a toilet!!
Anyway back to the birding, we set the scope up on the beach and as there were a few fishing boats heading back in towards Torre bird numbers were quite good with lots of Gulls following the fishermen. They included lots of Yellow-legged (Gaviota Patiamarilla / Larus Michahellis), a couple of summering Lesser Black-backed (Gaviota Somria / Larus fuscus), summer and winter plumage Black-headed (Gaviota Riedora / Larus ridibundus) and a dozen or so Audouin's Gulls (Gaviota de Audouin / Larus audouinii) most of which were just loafing around on the sea. In the boats wake we also saw a couple of Northern Gannets (Alcatraz Atlántico / Morus bassanus), two Cory's Shearwaters (Pardela Cenicienta / Calonectris diomedea) and a single Balearic (Pardela Balear / Puffinus mauretanicus). We then gave the beach pool a scan but found little else except for a Reed Warbler (Carricero Común / Acrocephalus scirpaceus), more Eurasian Coots, Common Moorhens and a family party of Zitting Cisticola’s. We walked back along the beach and past the dump track and out onto the fields where we soon picked up an immature Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator) which was perched on one of the field fences and a couple more Cattle Egrets flew over the reeds by the river. We turned back towards the track and were soon watching a small group of around 5 Short-toed Larks feeding in amongst the cut stems of what looked like Sprout plants. Back by the main track we again took some more shots of the Spotted Flycatchers and then move out on to the river bank.
We walked up the river and started to pick up a few Dragonflies (not in the numbers expected) including a very nice male Blue / Common Emperor (Anax imperator) which sat nicely for Bob to get a few shots and disappeared as soon as I tried. We also picked up Lesser Emperor (Anax parthenope), Epaulet Skimmer (Orthetrum chrysostigma), Broad Scarlet (Crocothemis erythraea), Iberian Bluetail (Ischnura graellsii) but the best find was a nice male Black Percher (Diplacodes lefebvrii). Several African Grass Blues (Niña esmaltada / Zizeeia knysna), Clouded Yellow (Colias Común / Colias crocea), Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina ssp hispulla) and Small White (Artogeia rapae) were the only butterflies seen. Birds added to the list included Little Ringed Plover (Chorlitejo Chico / Charadrius dubius), White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba) and a very nice little flock of 6 or so Common Waxbills (Estrilda Ondulada / Estrilda astrild) which were a nice addition to the year list which stands at 239. Eventually we found our way back around to the cars and after what had been a very pleasant couple of hours birding Bob and I said our goodbyes and headed off. I met Jayne and we went and had some lunch before spending an hour or so at the shopping centre then headed for home.
As we started the drive back we saw an eagle soaring over the main road up to Zafarraya near the Tripache which I thought was almost certainly going to be a pale phase Booted (Aguililla Calzada / Hieraaetus pennatus) so I was pleased when it turned and gave away the fact that it was in fact a very nice Bonelli's (Aguila-azor Perdicera / Hieraaetus faciatus).
Further along on the way back I took the route up the Western side of Sierra de Loja and stopped at a site where Juan Perez and I had seen Epipactis tremolsii last year. I parked the car under some nice old oak trees and was immediately aware of large numbers of Hairstreak Butterflies whizzing around in amongst the leaves. I had a walk to the Orchid spot but found that I was a week or two too late and the flowers were well dried. I then took another look at the butterflies and was surprised to find that all the ones that settled long enough for me to check were female Purple Hairstreaks (Quercusia Quercus) and not False Ilex (Querquera / Satyrium esculi) as I had expected. Other species included Clouded Yellow, Cardinal Fritillary (Pandora / argynnis Pandora) and Southern Gatekeeper (Pyronia cecilia).
Photographs from the top: 2x Spotted Flycatcher (Papamoscas Gris / Muscicapa striata), African Grass Blue (Niña esmaltada / Zizeeia knysna), Blue / Common Emperor (Anax imperator), Broad Scarlet (Crocothemis erythraea), 2x Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator), Common Waxbills (Estrilda Ondulada / Estrilda astrild) and Purple Hairstreak (Quercusia Quercus.
The Broad Scarlet and the Blue Emperor photographs where taken by Bob Wight and I have used them here with his kind permission. Thanks Bob.