Monday, 7 January 2013

Sierra de Loja and Huétor Fields, Granada Province.

A day in the hills and down on the fields.

I started off by meeting Juan Perez at the Cortijo de Tajar hotel near the A92, on the way I started the day list off with House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer domesticus), White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba), Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto) and Cattle Egret (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis). We then headed off up the motorway past Loja to the Abades service area on the Granada bound side of the A92 where we met up with Bob Wright from the Axarquia Bird group before heading off up the Sierra. We started birding by the small disused quarry and quickly found Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Blue (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus) and Great Tits (Carbonera Común / Parus major), Robin (Petirrojo Europeo / Erithacus rubecula), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla) and Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula). We continued on up the hill to the larger disused quarry which was very cold as the sun had not got up above the crags. On the gorse covered hill side we picked up three Dartford Warblers (Curruca Rabilargo / Sylvia undata), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor) and a flock Red-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) which wheeled around over the tops noisily. Along the main track up passed the crags we saw loads more Choughs, a few Jackdaws (Grajilla / Corvus monedula), Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa) and at the highest point of the track on the bend we had a single Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops), Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus), Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), at least 3 Black Wheatears (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura), a male Blue-rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius) and Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia). Along the flatter areas in amongst the rock piles we added Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis) and Meadow Pipit (Bisbita Pratense / Anthus pratensis). We went up passed Charca del Negra and the Goat Cave to the Hawthorn scrub a couple of KM on. Here we quickly located the first of around a dozen Ring Ouzels ( Mirlo Capiblanco / Turdus torquatus). A little further on we stopped and scanned the bushes below a steep cliff where we saw large numbers of Corn Buntings (Triguero / Emberiza calandra) feeding on the grass between the trees and us, Bob also had a sngle Hawfinch (Picogordo / Coccotraustes coccotraustes) but thedam thing dropped just as I got it in the scope. In the same area we also saw at least two Alpine Accentors (Accentor Alpino / Prunella modularis) which dropped down off the crags, Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris) and Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulgar / Falco tinnunculus). We then drove back down the hill and took some shots of the masses of flowering Wild-leaved Iris (Iris planifolia) on the way. We reached the service area and made our way to the fields at Huétor Tajar to find some of the species I had seen recently. We first went up over the railway from the small industrial area on the north of the town, along here we found a flock of Northern Lapwings (Avefria Europea / Vanellus vanellus), Crested Lark (Cogujada / Galerida cristata) and Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis). Our next stop was on the side of the river where we had views of some of the 28 Stock Doves (Paloma Zurita / Columba oenas) I had seen back in 2012, today we saw at least 18 birds. The first four were on the fields and later we saw a flock of 14 more birds up over the Olives. In this area we also saw singles of Common Buzzard (Busardo Ratonero / Buteo buteo) and Peregrine Falcon (Halcón Peregrino / Falco peregrinus), a male was perched on a nearby pylon. We then went on along the arroyo and added Green Sandpiper (Andarrios Grande / Tringa ochropus), Tree Sparrow (Gorrión Molinero / Passer montanus), Cirl Bunting (Escribano Soteno / Emberiza cirlus), Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita), Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica), Azure-winged Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus), Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricailla), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinulas chloropus), Grey Wagtail (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea) and Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina). Next we went on around to the Loja side of the town and in one of the larger Lucerne fields we found around 30 Little Bustard (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax) which were well hidden in amongst the crop. We continued on and picked up a few of the wintering Stone Curlews (Alcaraván Común / Burhinus oedicnemus) and Common Starling (Estornino Pinto / Sturnus vulgaris). Our last stop was on the arroyo on the far side of the Mesia road, here we added a single female Brambling (Pizón Real / Fringilla montifringilla) to the day list which was by now standing at 57 for me and I know that Bob and Juan had both seen species I had missed so the total was probably over 60.
Thanks Juan and Bob for a great day.

Photographs from the top: Wild-leaved Iris (Iris planifolia), Frozen pools at Charca del Negra, General View from the Sierra, Juan and Bob near the Ouzel spot and Stock Dove (Paloma Zurita / Columba oenas).

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