Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Sierra de Loja, Granada Province.

Aprils Andalucian Bird Society Meeting.

I arrived at the lower car park of the Abades service area off the A92 just above Loja to meet up with a group from the ABS, I was expecting to be guiding a decent sized group of around 12 members on to the hill but by the time we headed out numbers had swelled to 27 including myself. In the car park while we were getting sorted I noted House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer domesticus), House Martin (Avión Común / Delichon urbica) and Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula). We made a short stop at the lower quarry which was mainly so I could check that every one was happy to walk up to the next larger quarry from the parking area. Whilst we were here we did see Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus), a couple of Red-billed Chough's (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) and a large Raptor which only I saw and was so distant that I could not be sure of its identification. We moved on and parked on the large cut out turning area on the right a Km or so on and once every one was ready started the walk up the track to the middle quarry, before we had really started we heard and then saw a smal flock of Azure-winged Magpies (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus), 2 Sparrowhawk (Gavilán Común / Accipiter nisus), Coal Tit (Carbonero Garrapinos / Parus ater) and several Pallid Swifts (Vencejo Pálido /Apus pallidus). On the right hand side of the track we soon started to see some interesting wild flowers and Orchids, the first were Yellow Bee Orchid (Ophrys lutea), followed by Torcal Toadflax (Linaria anticaria), the small yellow flowered Viola dmentria, Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum) and further up the track Southern Wild Tulip (Tulipa sylvestris ssp australis), Southern Red Bartsia (Parentucellia latifolia), Southern Knapweed (Centaurea pullata ssp pullata), Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis), Pink Med Catchfly (Silene colorata), Gorse (Ulex europaeus) and Asphodelus ramosus. On the walk up several species of bird were added to the day list including Blue Tit (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus), Dartford Warbler (Curruca Rabilargo / Sylvia undata), Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator), Red-rumped (Golondrina Dáurica / Hirudo daurica) and Barn Swallows (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica), Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris),  Common Swift (Vencejo Común / Apus apus) and Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs). We reached the Quarry to find that two climbers were scaling the main cliff face just below the Eagle Owl (Buho Real / Bubo bubo) platform so the birds were not showing but in this area and in the quarry we added Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa) and Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala). On the way back down Bob Wright and I saw a male Common Crossbill (Piquituerto Común / Loxia curvirostra) in his scope but it flew before we could get any one else on to it. Also seen were Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla), Rock Pigeon (Paloma Bravia / Columba livia), Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia) and a fleeting male Subalpine Warbler (Curruca Carrasquena / Sylvia cantillans) which flew across the track and disappeared into a bush. Amongst the rocks we found a few spikes of Sawfly Orchid (Ophrys tenthredinifera) and a single one of Mirror Orchid (Ophrys speculum subsp speculum). Other plants were Field marigold (Calendula arvensis), Rosy garlic (Allium roseum), Rock Phagnalon (Phagnalon saxatile), White Rockrose (Helianthemum apenninum) and Iberis pectinata. Butterflies included Moroccan Orange-tip (Anthocharis belia), Common Blue (Icaro (Dos Puntos) / Polyommatus icarus), Bath White (Blanqiverdosa / Pontia daplidice), Small White (Artogeia rapae) and Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera).
Our next stop was on the crags near the top, we all managed to tuck the cars in close on the one side of the track and then walked up to the bend. On the way we added Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua), Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula), Blue-rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius), Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulgar / Falco tinnunculus), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris) and our first of many Black-eared Wheatears (Collalba Rubia / Oenanthe hispanica). Plants on the rocks included  Buckler Mustard (Biscutella frutescens), Chickweed (Cerastium boissieri), Crambe filiformis and Gagea arvensis. The drivers then walked back down to the cars and came back up and picked us all up, we then continued on as far as the first water shed. On the way we located Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina), a pair of soaring Ravens (Cuervo / Corvus corax) and European Bee-eater (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster). Again we then moved on continuing on up to the valley near the substation buildings where we found our first Northern Wheatear (Collalba Gris / Oenanthe oenanthe), more Red-billed Chough's, several Black-eared Wheatears and in the air clouds of both Common and Pallid Swifts. on our way up to Charca del negro where we were going to have our picnic's I had brief views of a female Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush (Roquero Roja / Monticola saxatilis) but just as we stopped the dam thing flew down into a small dip behind some large rocks and was not seen again. We then took the right turn up near a largish goat herders compound and parked at Charca, Brenda and her two companians could not get up to the spot in their low slung Audi hire car so I walled back down to them. they decided to have their food at the bottom of the slop and then drive back down the hill. By the time I got back up to the others the Picnic was well under way. I got my food and went down by the pool and watched the many Natterjack Toads (Sapo Corredor / Bufo calamita) and Sharp-ribbed Salamander (Pleurodeles waltl) coming up to breath in the clear water. Over the water there were a couple of species of dragonflies, a female of the large and fast flying Blue / Common Emperor (Anax imperator) and both male and female of the smaller Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombii) including an egg laying female. Once we had all eaten some of us had a look on the nearby crag at a good number of the uncommon Narcissus bugei and some newly flowering clumps of Blue Hedgehog Broom (Erinacea anthyllis), also on the crags we had nice views of a male Blue-rock Thrush, Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia) and over the pool more Crag Martins. We then moved on in the vehicles around passed the goat cave to the next set of rocky cliffs where we all had great views of a pair of Rufous-tailed Rock Thrushes which showed very well. We later walked a little further on to check an area for a second pair of thrushes but we did not see them but had nice views of more Blue-rock Thrushes and Black Wheatears. We then walked back to the vehicles and started on back down the hill but made a stop above the marble quarry where we looked for Spectacled Warbler (Curruca Tomillera / Sylvia conspicillata). Within a few minutes we had a fine display flying male bird which perched a couple of times. We again continued on down hill, some of the group turned up the track to the top quarry to check the Eagle Owl site and were awarded with views of a bird sat on the front of the platform. Our car just managed to add Great Tit (Carbonera Común / Parus major) to the list. We eventually reached the car park and all went our own ways. Thank you to Peter and Nick for giving me a lift around all day
and to all the members who made this a very nice days birding.

Thanks to David Hird and Stephen Powell for sending me and allowing me to use their shots in the blog.

Photographs from the top: Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Southern Wild Tulip (Tulipa sylvestris ssp australis), Viola dmentria, Moroccan Orange-tip (Anthocharis belia), Black-eared Wheatear (Collalba Rubia / Oenanthe hispanica), The group photo -3 people, Narcissus bugei, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush (Roquero Roja / Monticola saxatilis), Spectacled Warbler (Curruca Tomillera / Sylvia conspicillata), another smaller group shot and the Eagle Owl (Buho Real / Bubo bubo) on the return drive.

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