Friday, 24 August 2012

Rio Velez, Venta de Zafarraya and km 23, Loja road, Malaga and Granada Provinces.

Day Three of the trip, down on the coast and back through the mountains.

Steve, Lynn, Adam and I headed down to Rio Velez near to Torre-del-mar on the Malaga Coast to have a look for another of the species that Steve wanted to see. Our target was the small and quick moving Black Percher (Diplacodes lefebvrii), a fact that the person who ever it was that gave this insect its common name had not thought through, because the dam thing did not perch very much and when it did it was up again at the slightest movement. Any way we arrived at the very slow flowing river and almost immediately found our target, a male was soon found but it played hard to get a shot of for quite some time. Whilst Steve was battling with this chap I saw several more species including Blue / Common Emperor (Anax imperator), Broad Scarlet (Crocothemis erythraea), Iberian Bluetail (Ischnura graellsii) and Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombii). Plus several birds, with the best being a female Marsh Harrier (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus), Spotted Flycatcher (Papamoscas Gris / Muscicapa striata), Little Ringed Plover (Chorlitejo Chico / Charadrius dubius) and several adult and immature Iberian form Yellow Wagtails (Lavandera Boyera / Motacilla flava). Steve got some Ok shots so we started the wade along the river down towards the main pool, almost straight away we found a very well behaved Blue Emperor which posed on a dead bush for ages while we all got some very close up shots of it. The dragon posed well and was probably inwardly laughing too much at the two Muppets wading in the extremely smelly stagnant water which surrounded the stump to fly anywhere! We continued further along and thankfully out into some much more pleasant water where we saw more Black Perchers which were not much more helpful, Epaulet Skimmer (Orthetrum chrysostigma), Lesser Emperor (Anax parthenope) and a nice but none settling male Long Skimmer (Orthetrum trinacria). We turned up into another little spur where the water was quite clean and this was where Steve found a Percher which lived up to its name and he got the required shot, it was not a new species but one he had not seen since the arrival of digital cameras. During this walk we also saw several Zitting Cisticola’s (Buitrón / Cisticola juncidis), Yellow-legged Gull (Gaviota Patiamarilla / Larus Michahellis), Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), a Kingfisher (Martin Pescador / Alcedo atthis) which did several fly pasts, Grey (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea) and White Wagtails (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba), Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinula Chloropus) and out on the pool near the beach Common Pochard (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos) and Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra). At this point we started to walk back towards the car and almost straight away we had cracking views of an adult Squacco Heron (Garcilla Cangrejera / Ardeola ralloides) which waded out into the water and took a perched Lesser Emperor Dragonfly, Steve got some nice shot at this point and I managed some a little later at our second encounter with this cracking little Heron. Continuing on we saw several Violet Dropwings (Trithemis annulata), a Viperine Snake (Culebra viperina / Natrix maura) and masses of Iberian Water Frogs (Rana Común / Rana Perezi). Butterflies were quite scarce but we did see Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria), Swallowtail (Papilio machaon), Large White (Pieris brassicae) and the tiny African Grass Blue (Niña esmaltada / Zizeeia knysna). Other birds included European Bee-eater (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster), Monk Parakeet (Cotorra Argentina / Myiopsitta monachus), Cattle Egret (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis), Cetti’s Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti) and Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris). We then drove back up towards the disuse railway line at Venta de Zafarraya but on the way Lynn notice a plume of smoke coming from out of one of the valleys off to the East which got bigger and bigger until by the time we reached the railway line car park there were 10+ helicopters and two plane fighting a quite large wildfire on some very inaccessible slopes. We had a walk along the track until we were around 200m beyond the tunnel, due to the time of day things were quite quiet but we did see several Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura), Red-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), Red-rumped Swallow (Golondrina Dáurica / Hirundo daurica), Alpine Swift (Vencejo Real / Apus melba) and a nice Striped Grayling (Pseudotergumia fidia). From here we took the road towards Loja and stopped in the Oak woodlands along the way looking for some butterfly species, the first and by far the commonest was Purple Hairstreak (Quercusia Quercus) with several individuals flying around each tree. Further along the track we came across Tree Grayling (Neohipparchia statilinus), Southern Gatekeeper (Pyronia cecilia), Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas), Scarce Swallowtail (Chupaleches / Iphiclides podalirius feisthameli), Sage Skipper (Muschampia proto), Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina ssp hispulla), Common Blue (Icaro (Dos Puntos) / Polyommatus icarus), Clouded Yellow (Colias Común / Colias crocea), Southern Brown Argus (Aricia cramera), Bath White (Blanqiverdosa / Pontia daplidice), Adonis Blue (Niña Celeste / Lysandra bellargus) and a very large Bush Cricket Species. Birds included both Spotted and Pied Flycatchers (Papamoscas Cerrojillo / Ficedula hypoleuca), Bonelli’s Warbler (Mosquitero Papialbo / Phylloscopus bonelli) and Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala). From here we continued on back to the house seeing Booted Eagle (Aguililla Calzada / Hieraaetus pennatus), Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops), Lesser Kestrel (Cernicola Primilla / Falco naumanni) and Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis) on the way.
Photographs from the top: 2 x Blue / Common Emperor (Anax imperator), Steve photographing blue Emperor (note the colour of the water), Broad Scarlet (Crocothemis erythraea), Goats moving along the river, Lynn showing that is was not just the lads that got there feet wet! Squacco Heron (Garcilla Cangrejera / Ardeola ralloides), Me photographing the Squacco (taken from my best side), The Fire, Purple Hairstreak (Quercusia Quercus) and Tree Grayling (Neohipparchia statilinus).

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