Monday, 6 August 2012

Sierra Nevada, Granada Province.

Amongst the high level plants and birds.

What know seemed to be getting a bit of a habit I was meeting Juan Perez at Aki in Granada again but this time we were going off up in to the higher reaches of the Sierra Nevada Natural Park looking for upland species. We met at 07:00 and were up near the Parador Hotel at around 2500meters by 08:00 to catch the minibus up to a point just below Valeta where we started off by walking a little way along a track on the first ridge above the stop. Almost immediately we picked up our first of quite a few Alpine Accentors (Acentor Alpino / Prunella modularis), next can a family party of Raven (Cuervo / Corvus corax) and some calling Red-billed Choughs (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax). We then started searching through the cracks and fishers in the rocks for plants and soon found several fern species including Rusty-back Fern (Ceterach officinarum), Polystichum lonchitis and Cryptogramma crispa. Also seen in the same spot were Carduus carlinoides ssp hispanicus, Ptilotrichum spinosum and the tiny Eyebright (Euphrasia willkommii). We then started to climb a bit higher up the road towards the small refuge below Valeta where again we bumped into more Alpine Accentors and several plants of the endemic Senecio nevadensis. We then started the decent, Juan checked his GPS and it said that we were at 3200meters as we set off down quite a steep scree slope on a reasonable enough track heading down the Dilar Valley, in amongst the rocks on the way down we saw lots of Reseda complicata which is endemic to the park along with Plantago nivalis, Arenaria pungens and Epilobium alsinifolium. Eventually we reached the first of the small mountain lakes where we made a brief stop to remove a couple of layers as the sun was now on the area and I had regained some use of my fingers after the cold we had endured near the start of the walk. In this area we found several more plants in flower including Veronica turbicola, Saxifraga stellaris ssp alpigena and Eryngium glaciale. At the far end of the pool a small group of Alpine Accentors were seen with one of the birds bathing in the water before flying up onto some near by rocks where I managed to get some shots. As we continued to descend we started to see larger numbers of Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina) which made finding the target bird Ortolan Bunting (Escribano Hortolano / Emberiza hortulana) harder, whist we sere scanning through these birds we picked up a summer plumaged Water Pipit (Bistita Alpino / Anthus spinoletta) which Juan was very pleased with as it is quite a rare bird in the area. As we entered a small level area of damp grassland and rocks a small group of Linnets went up with another bunting type bird with them but this was the only sighting and I did not get anything on it to give it a name. This was as close as we got to a possible Ortolan, so I will have to return to the area a little earlier and try again. We continued on down to another area of level rocky ground and on this section of the walk we started to see the first butterflies of the day, most were Black Satyr (Satyrus actaea) but there were a few Oriental Meadow Browns (Hyponephele lupinnus), Silver-spotted Skippers (Hesperia comma), a Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas), Iberian Marbled White (Melanargia lachesis), Dark-green Fritillary (Argynnis aglaja) and Clouded Yellows (Colias Común / Colias crocea). We were still at around 2700 meters and were quite surprised when a pair of Hoopoes (Abubilla / Upupa epops) flew up from the grass in front of us, they were joined by one of several Northern Wheatears (Collalba Gris / Oenanthe oenanthe) we had in the area and a Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros). In the air at least 3 Common Kestrels (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus) were hunting and they were joined by more Pallid Swifts and some small groups of House Martins (Avión Común / Delichon urbica). We then started to climb back up towards the track out of the valley and back towards the upper Ski station, on the way we walked through a meadow containing lots of the rare Gentiana pneumonanthe subsp depressa and stopped by a large crag to look at some large clumps of the endemic Centranthus nevadensis. Juan had said earlier that he preferred to walk up hill than down the steep slopes we had done earlier, I said that I was not sure. Well three quarters of the way up this climb I was, give me down hill every time. Whilst I was slowly and nosily diying during this climb (I miss the work with RFH which kept me fit) I added Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris), Mountain Argus (Aricia artaxerxer montensis) and Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) to the butterfly list. We then made our way out to the upper station and on down the road back to the Parador where the car was, on the way seeing several nice big male Spanish Ibex (Capra pyreaica hispanica) and back at the car we added Coal Tit (Carbonero Garrapinos / Parus ater) and Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs) to the list in the Pines. We then drove back down to the City and I made my way home. Most of me had a great day, my ankles took a few hours to calm down but we saw some cracking stuff, thanks Juan.
Photographs from the top: Polystichum lonchitis, Carduus carlinoides ssp hispanicus, Senecio nevadensi, View of the snow still on the ridge, Alpine Accentor (Acentor Alpino / Prunella modularis), First small pool, Eryngium glaciale, Juan on the descent, Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops) and Centranthus nevadensis.

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