Saturday 5 May 2012

RAM, the mountains and Charca del Suarez, Motril, Granada Province.

A rainy days birding and orchid hunting.

Baillon’s Crake (Pollueta chica / Porzana pusilla).
Unfortunately RAM had moved on to the summer timetable and Juan and I had to be down on the coast and set up by 07:30, so it was an early start to be there in time to meet up with Jacinto Villalvilla at the parking area before heading up onto the rock where we did the sea watch. It was the first time Jacinto had joined us so it was a little disappointing when the birds did not, during the survey time we only recorded a single Cory's Shearwater (Pardela Cenicienta / Calonectris diomedea), around a dozen Northern Gannets (Alcatraz Atlántico / Morus bassanus), less Audouin's Gulls (Gaviota de Audouin / Larus audouinii), 3 Great Skua’s (Págalo Grande / Catharacta skua) and 3 Little Egrets (Garceta Común / Egretta garzetta) which did a fly passed at sea. A pair of Peregrine Falcons (Halcón Peregrino / Falco peregrinus) were seen on a couple of occasions and a few Pallid Swifts (Vencejo Pálido / Apus pallidus) and Crag Martins (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris) flew along the cliffs. 
Baillon’s Crake (Pollueta chica / Porzana pusilla).
Other birds included Yellow-legged (Gaviota Patiamarilla / Larus Michahellis) and Lesser Black-backed Gulls (Gaviota Somria / Larus fuscus), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), House Martin (Avión Común / Delichon urbica) and Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica). We then headed up into the hills looking for Orchids, at the site we found Bug Orchid (Orchis coriophora), Dense-Flowered Orchid (Neotinea maculata), Pink Butterfly Orchid (Orquídea mariposa / Orchis papilionacea), Somber Bee Orchid (Ophrys forestieri), Yellow Bee Orchid (Ophrys lutea) and Small Tongue Orchid (Serapias parviflora). 
Baillon’s Crake (Pollueta chica / Porzana pusilla).
Birds included Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator), Turtle Dove (Tórtola Europea / Streptopelia turtur), Subalpine (Curruca Carrasquena / Sylvia cantillans), Sardinian (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala) and Orphean Warblers (Curruca Mirlona / Sylvia hortensis), Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), several Common Crossbills (Piquituerto Común / Loxia curvirostra), Nightingale (Ruisenor Común / Luscinia megarhynchos), Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus), Long-tailed Tit (Mito / Aegithalos caudatus), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina), Jay (Arrendajo / Garrulus glandarius), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus) and Sparrowhawk (Gavilán Común / Accipiter nisus). 
Female Pied Flycatcher (Papamoscas Cerrojillo / Ficedula hypoleuca).
Our next stop was at the entrance of Charca de Suarez where we sorted out with Manuel the warden about visiting later, we then went and got some sandwiches before doing some birding on the area which will at some point in the distant future by the sounds of it become part of the reserve. He we picked up males of both Northern (Collalba Gris / Oenanthe oenanthe) and Black-eared Wheatears (Collalba Rubia / Oenanthe hispanica), Zitting Cisticola (Buitrón / Cisticola juncidis), Common Quail (Codorniz Común / Coturnix coturnix), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Cetti’s Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti), White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba), Melodious Warbler (Zarcero Común / Hippolais polyglotta), Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus) and Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto).
Sand Martins (Avión Zapador / Riparia riparia).
At 13:00 we went into the reserve complete with our lunch and almost as soon as we were in it started to rain and it did not fully stop for the whole time we were in there but surprisingly the light was not too bad. We started off in the hide over looking Laguna del Lirio but it was fairly quiet, we only added Reed Warbler (Carricero Común / Acrocephalus scirpaceus), Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra) and Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinula Chloropus). We next moved around to the first hide which over looks Laguna del Trebol, where after a short while Juan picked up the Baillon’s Crake (Pollueta chica / Porzana pusilla) we had seen at the site a week or so ago Infront of the other hide. From here we also picked up Spotted Flycatcher (Papamoscas Gris / Muscicapa striata), Sand Martin (Avión Zapador / Riparia riparia), Western Swamp-hen (Calamón Común / Porphyrio porphyrio), Purple Heron (Garza Imperial / Ardea purpurea), Common Swift (Vencejo Común / Apus apus) and heard both Stripeless Tree (Hyla meridionalis) and Iberian Water Frogs (Rana Común / Rana Perezi). 
Sand Martin (Avión Zapador / Riparia riparia).
We then made a dash for the next hide which for Juan and Jacinto was the hide where we had just seen the Baillon’s in front of and for me was the main hide. From here I quickly added a female Common Pochard (Porrón Europeo / Aythya ferina) to the day list along with 4 Grey Herons (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea) which were roosting in the reeds but little else so I walked back around to Juan and Jacinto who had had just a very brief view of the Crake before I arrived, on the way I had views of a female Pied Flycatcher (Papamoscas Cerrojillo / Ficedula hypoleuca) which was perched on the rail fencing along the path. Within seconds of me getting into the hide the Crake was on view again and this time it walked right across between the two stands of reeds and showed extremely well. We all then got the camera’s set up and the bird showed very well on several occasions which gave even me enough to mess about and get some decent shots. 
Squacco Heron (Garcilla Cangrejera / Ardeola ralloides).
A very nice Squacco Heron (Garcilla Cangrejera / Ardeola ralloides) was also seen sat out in the open on top of a sheet of blanket weed, also added from here were nice views of a Water Rail (Rascón Europeo / Rallus aquaticus) and Red-rumped Swallow (Golondrina Dáurica / Hirundo daurica). We later walked around to the main hide and saw a male Common Pochard with two females and a couple more Little Egrets which were roosting on the island. During the heavier showers lots of the Sand and House Martins joined the Barn Swallows sitting on the stumps in the water and in the reeds which gave them some protection from the rain. 
Turtle Dove (Tórtola Europea / Streptopelia turtur).
On the way back to the entrance we scanned the new flash but the only bird there was a lone Common Sandpiper (Andarrios Chico / Actitis hypoleucos). We stopped briefly and had a look over Laguna del Taraje but as the hide only had a reed roof we were getting soaked so we quickly move on and meet up with Manuel and then set off back home.

Friday 4 May 2012

Laguna Herrera, Antequera, Malaga Province.

Plenty of birds but the Laguna was just a puddle!

European Bee-eater (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster).
On the drive along the track to the main Laguna there were as usual plenty of House Sparrows (Gorrión Común / Passer Domesticus), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), a few Linnets (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina) and a good number of singing Corn Buntings (Triguero / Emberiza calandra). Out on one of the cereal fields there were at least 5 displaying Montagu's Harriers (Aguilucho Cenizo / Circus pygargus) and a single male Marsh Harrier (Aguilucho Lagunero Occidental / Circus aeruginosus) which was getting so stick from two of the male Monte’s. A little further down the track I pulled in and parked on a small bridge which went over the now dry ditch which runs along side the track and quickly added a singing Melodious Warbler (Zarcero Común / Hippolais polyglotta) to the list, along with Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops), Crested Lark (Cogujada Común / Galerida cristata) and a small group of Lesser Kestrels (Cernicola Primilla / Falco naumanni) which were following a tractor in a nearby field. 
Little Bustard (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax).
The lagoon was virtually dry except for a small puddle which was being used as a wash point by around 200 Gull-billed Terns (Pagaza Piconegra / Gelochelidon nilotica) and a single Kentish Plover (Chorlitejo Patinegro / Charadrius alexandrinus). I then decided to drive around the tracks but the rain had become heavier and this made finding birds a lot harder. I soon found more Melodious Warblers in the reed filled ditches and plenty of singing Corn Buntings, new species included a male Whinchat (Tarabilla Nortena / Saxicola rubetra) which was a year tick, Common Buzzard (Busardo Ratonero / Buteo buteo), Calandra (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra) and Short-toed Larks (Terrera Común / Calandrella brachydactyla), European Bee-eater (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster), Spanish (Yellow) Wagtail (Lavandera Boyera / Motacilla flava iberiae) and a nice male Little Bustard (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax) which tried to hide behind some small weeds. 
Little Bustard (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax).
Other birds seen included both Pallid (Vencejo Pálido / Apus pallidus) and Common Swifts (Vencejo Común / Apus apus), Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Raven (Cuervo / Corvus corax), Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator) and Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata).

Thursday 3 May 2012

Sierra de Loja, Granada Province.

A Big Owl and 2 species of Eagle.

Yellow Bee Orchid (Ophrys lutea).
Today I was meeting a group of five people for a day on the Sierra de Loja looking for any kind of wildlife which is my sort of day. I meet Winkle, Phillip, Marcia, Angus and Ynis at the Abades service station before we made our way along the track up the sierra, we made our first stop just out of the car park where we had a good look at some spikes of Yellow Bee Orchid (Ophrys lutea) growing on a roadside back along with Rosy Garlic (Allium roseum), Spring Rockcress (Arabis verna), Southern Daisy (Bellis cordifolia), Mallow-leaved Bindweed (Convolvulus althaeoides), Common Stork's-bill (Erodium cicutarium), Warty Spurge (Euphorbia squamigera), both Common Grape Hyacinth (Muscari neglectum) and Tassel Hyacinth (Muscari comosum).
Eagle Owl (Buho Real / Bubo bubo).
We then moved on a short distance to the small disused quarry where we had nice views of a male Blue Rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius) which was feeding on the cliffs, Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica) and then brief views of an immature Golden Eagle (Águila Real / Aquila chrysaetos) which just bobbed up above the trees twice both time for just a couple of seconds. We stopped briefly in the pines on the way up to thee upper quarry and while we were having a look at the plants we could hear a Woodlark (Totovia / Lullula arborea) which was singling from quite high above the trees, we also saw Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus) and an almost black Red Squirrel (Sclurus vulgaris) which disappeared up one of the trees.
Red Squirrel (Sclurus vulgaris).
On the way up to the quarry we also saw Iberian  Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cooki), a dark phase Booted Eagle (Aguililla Calzada / Hieraaetus pennatus) and Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula). From the track up to the quarry I had a quick look at the platform where the Eagle Owl (Buho Real / Bubo bubo) had been seen a few days earlier but there was no sign of the bird but we got better views of the bird that even I had expected when I saw a large shape sat in the pine trees right next to the road. It was sat in the back tree of the plantation but stayed there while we had fantastic views; unfortunately there was a branch in front of its head so the photos were not great. We then moved on up into the Quarry and added Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia), Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris), Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala) and Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes) heard only to the list.
Viola dementria.
Also seen from here were four Spanish Ibex (Capra pyreaica hispanica) which were sitting in the open right on top of the highest rock face. On the way back down the track we picked up the Booted Eagle again and added Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator) with a nice male showing well in a nearby hawthorn and Bonelli’s Warbler (Mosquitero Papialbo / Phylloscopus bonelli) which was calling from below us in the pines. We then started to look at the plants again when Winkle found several nice blooms of Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum), and then nearby we saw the uncommon Viola dementria and the endemic Torcal Toadflax (Linaria anticaria). A little further up the track towards the crags we stopped again to get better views of Iberian  Magpie which were moving through the trees, I then heard the chipping call of Common Crossbills (Piquituerto Común / Loxia curvirostra) we could hear the crunching of cones long before we discovered a female in one of the lower branches, this was followed by nice views of a male which sat nicely for us all to have good views in the scope which was a good job as it took some finding.
Torcal Toadflax (Linaria anticaria).
Next we stopped along the crags where we heard the distinctive call from the breeding Red-billed Choughs (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) as they swooped acrobatically along the tops of the crags with there common relatives the Jackdaw.
In the air with them were at least one pair of Common Kestrels (Cernicalo Vulga / Falco tinnunculus) and several Pallid Swifts (Vencejo Pálido / Apus pallidus). Below us in the scrub Angus, Phillip and I managed to see a male Dartford Warbler (Curruca Rabilarga / Sylvia undata) which played hard to see in the low herbage, from here we could also hear a singing Subalpine Warbler (Curruca Carrasquena / Sylvia cantillans) and the first of the days very elusive Thekla Larks (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae) which are normally seen easily along side the main track but proved difficult today. Once we had climbed up passed the crags and out on to the tops we saw the first Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura) of the day which promptly flew all the way down the near slope and perched miles away on the end of one of the quarry building where it was joined briefly by the female bird, we also saw the first of many Black-eared Wheatears (Collalba Rubia / Oenanthe hispanica) a male with just the bandit mask not the full throated version. Several Red-legged Partridges (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa) were seen along with a sizable flock of Red-billed Choughs and Jackdaws.
The group looking at the Peony's.
We then called at Charca del Negra where we had our lunch and had a look for the elusive Sharp-ribbed Salamander’s which remained hidden yet again. Whilst we were eating we picked up Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia) several of which came down to the pool to drink along with Linnets (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina) and Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor). A male Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros) was seen and heard singing from the top of a nearby crag where we went to have a look at the plants, we saw Saxifraga camposii which had buds but no flowers yet, Yellow Stonecrop (Sedum tenuifolium) and Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum) which were growing between the rocks. At some point during lunch Phillip had a fall and had bumped his head, slit his lip and grazed his leg but even though we all though he need to get the lip seen to he insisted that we carried on so we went further on passed the goat cave and around to the crags where a week or so earlier I had seen the secretive Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush (Roquero Rojo / Monticola saxatilis).
Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush (Roquero Rojo / Monticola saxatilis).
The male was at first only seen display flying then dropping back behind rocks out of view, so we relocated and had nice views from around the next corned. In the same area we had more Rock Sparrows, Rock Bunting, Blue Rock Thrush and a second male Black Wheatear at a higher point up the Sierra than I usually see them. We then started to drop back down calling in just passed the Charca to see the rare Narcissus Bugei which was going over but there were still a couple of nice blooms, here we also got the first decent views of a Thekla Lark of the day. Also on the way down we found a few plants of Paeonia coriacea in flower, along with White Mignonette (Reseda Alba), Sticky Catchfly (Silene nicaeensis), Thapsia (Hapsia villosa) and Buckler Mustard (Biscutella frutescens). We then decided that Phillip needed to get seen to so we headed down a little earlier than planned but after a cracking day.

Wednesday 2 May 2012

Loja to Zafarraya and Embalse de Bermejalis, Granada Province.

A day with the Orchids.

Bryan photographing the Pink Butterflies.
On Tuesday evening I had a phone call from Bryan who was staying up on the edge of the Sierra Nevada about Orchids and the fact that there were not many about, but after taking for a while he decided that we should have a day trying to find a few and as today (Wednesday) was my only free time this week we meet at 10:00 at Hotel Cortijo de Tajar at exit 203 off the A92. We set off along the A92 and took the road down the western side of the Sierra de Loja and after just a few KMs we had our first find of the day which was a cracking group of Pink Butterfly Orchids (Orquídea mariposa / Orchis papilionacea) growing on a road side bank. Bryan soon had the camera, tripod and reflector set up and was happily getting some shots of these cracking plants (when the wind would let him). 
Pink Butterfly Orchid (Orquídea mariposa / Orchis papilionacea).
As with all wildlife photography it takes time so whilst he was getting on with the photos I had a look around and found several spikes of Yellow Bee Orchid (Ophrys lutea) which were in good condition and a few over with Fan-lipped Orchids (Orchis collina). Birds seen and heard here included Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator), Turtle Dove (Tórtola Europea / Streptopelia turtur), Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Iberin Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Nightingale (Ruisenor Común / Luscinia megarhynchos) and Bonelli’s Warbler (Mosquitero Papialbo / Phylloscopus bonelli).
Conical Orchid (Orchis conica).
Once the Pink-butterfly Orchids were sorted we continued on down the road to what in a normal year is probably one of the best sites for orchids I know, with 23 species being recorded during the season. But after the dry and cold of the last winter we were always going to struggle but we did have a good search and came up with lots of Conical (Orchis conica) which was the second new species for Bryan, many more Yellow Bee, Sword-leaved Helleborine (Cephalanthera longifolia), an over with Sawfly (Abejorros, flor de avispa / Ophrys tenthredinifera) which Bryan saw in good condition later near Grazalema, Giant (Himantoglossum robertiana), Lange's (Orchis langei) rosette only, a nicely flowering Fan-lipped and several spikes of Southern Early Purple Orchid (Orchis Olbiensis) ranging from white through to deep pink. Birds seen included Subalpine Warbler (Curruca Carrasquena / Sylvia cantillans), Jay (Arrendajo / Garrulus glandarius), Common Cuckoo (Cuco Común / Cuculus canorus), Woodlark (Totovia / Lullula arborea) and Cirl Bunting (Escribano Soteno / Emberiza cirlus).
Sword-leaved Helleborine (Cephalanthera longifolia).
We drove on along the road and just as I said to Bryan we sometimes get Italian Man Orchids (Orchis italica) on the roadside rocks he spotted a cracking spike, so we stopped and the tripod was out again. While we were here we had a couple of Griffon Vultures (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus) drift over, at least two male Provence Orange-tip (Anthocharis euphenodes) fly passed and a rather large Ladder Snake (Culebra de Escalera / Etaphe scalaris) shoot off into a large Gorse bush.
We then moved on again to a site just down the road a little nearer Zafarraya, here we found a few nice spikes of Mirror Orchid (Espejo de Venus / Ophrys speculum subsp speculum), a very tatty and not worth photographing Small Woodcock Orchid (Ophrys picta) all the plants of this species looked as though they had been hit hard by the frosts and lots of the very showy Pink-butterfly Orchids. New birds included a calling Wryneck (Torcecuello / Jynx torquilla) and a male Golden Oriole (Oropéndola / Oriolus oriolus).
Italian Man Orchid (Orchis italica).
Our last stop of the day was down in the pine woods that surround Embalse de Bermejales but these were particularly unproductive, we only found more Mirror, Italian Man and a few spikes of over with Ophrys forestieri. The time had gone by so quickly that it was almost 17:00 by the time I dropped Bryan back at his car and then went home.