Friday, 26 April 2013

Venta del Raya to Zafarraya, Granada Province.

A cracking day at the second attempt !!

On my way over to Venta del Raya I had a drive through the fields near the house and had notched up just over 30 species of bird before I got to the meeting point including Nightingale (Ruisenor Común / Luscinia megarhynchos), Cetti's Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti), Tree Sparrow (Gorrión Molinero / Passer montanus), Azure-winged Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus), Little Ringed Plover (Chorlitejo Chico / Charadrius dubius), Common Sandpiper (Andarrios Chico / Actitis hypoleucos), Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator) and Yellow Wagtail (Lavandera Boyera / Motacilla flava iberiae).
A slightly smaller group than on the 20th (as some had Spanish lessons and some were back in the UK) started out from the bar in Venta del Raya and made our first stop at an area of cereal fields where we quickly had some very good views of several Montagu's Harriers (Aguilucho Cenizo / Circus pygargus) including at least 6 fine males and 3 more reserved females. Also see whilst at this spot were several calling Turtle Doves (Tórtola Europea / Streptopelia turtur), a couple of Woodchat Shrikes which were perched up on the wires nearby showing well, Azure-winged Magpie, Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica), Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto) and Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus). We then drove on further down the road towards Zafarraya and pulled off on to a grassed area on the edge of a very nice old Oak woodland. Straight away we started to find the first of hundreds if not thousands of Yellow Bee Orchids (Ophrys lutea) we were to see during the morning. Also found under a nearby Oak was a very nice spike of Sawfly Orchid (Ophrys tenthredinifera) with at least 9 flowers but just the top few were in good condition. Out on the fields we saw and heard Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), Common Cuckoo (Cuco Común / Cuculus canorus), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula) and both Crested (Cogujada / Galerida cristata) and Woodlarks (Totovia / Lullula arborea). Deeper into the wooded area we found some very nice Conical Orchids (Orchis conica) which were still in nice condition and varied between almost white through to a strong pink and some equally variable spikes of Fan-lipped Orchid (Orchis conica). Wildflowers found included Southern Knapweed (Centaurea pullata ssp pullata), Common Fumitory (Fumaria officinalis), Common Grape Hyacinth (Muscari neglectum), Field marigold (Calendula arvensis), Purple Viper's Bugloss (Echium plantagineum), Southern Daisy (Bellis cordifolia), Southern Red Bartsia (Parentucellia latifolia), Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum), Warty Spurge (Euphorbia squamigera), Wild Clary (Salvia verbenaca), White Mignonette (Reseda Alba) and Rosy garlic (Allium roseum). Once we were in the woods we also started to hear a few more bird species, first was the high pitched calls of both the Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla) and Firecrest (Reyezuelo Listado / Regulus ignicapillus) and followed by the musical trill of the summer visiting Bonelli's Warbler (Mosquitero Papialbo / Phylloscopus bonelli). In one of the clearings we were watching some Pallid Swifts (Vencejo Pálido /Apus pallidus) flying over high calling nosily when Ann Terry said she had a raptor lower down above the trees, it was climbing rapidly but was easily identifiable as a pale phase Booted Eagle (Aguililla Calzada / Hieraaetus pennatus) and whilst we were watching this nice bird a Sparrowhawk (Gavilán Común / Accipiter nisus) soared into view. We continued on over the clearing seeing a few spikes of Lange's Orchid (Orchis langei) which was not quite in flower, in the next wood we found a good condition Giant Orchid (Himantoglossum robertiana) and some very nice spikes of the beautiful Sword-leaved Helleborine (Cephalanatera longifolia). We then went out on to the road and changed woodland, in the new area we saw many more Conical, GiantYellow Bee and another couple of Sawflys. We soon found a few spikes of the variable Southern Early Purple Orchid (Orchis olbiensis) one of which was growing out of the top of a moss covered rock along with lots of  Rusty-back Fern (Ceterach officinarum) and Little Robin (Geranium Purpureum). Out in the flowery meadows a little further on we found a few butterfly species had started to fly including Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus F lyllus), Clouded Yellow (Colias Común / Colias corcea), Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) and Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera). We walled back up towards the road and through a large clump of Sword-leaved Helleborines which were just starting to flower nicely. We then crossed over the road into another patch of woodland and started to walk back towards the car, on the way we saw Aristolochia paucinervis, Mediterranean Kidney Vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria), Tassel Hyacinth (Muscari comosum), Wild Peony (Paeonia broteroi), Common Stork's-bill (Erodium cicutarium) and birds included Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), European Bee-eater (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster) and Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulgar / Falco tinnunculus).
We got back to the cars and headed on again for just a short way where we again pulled off the road and started to wander around an area of open Oak woodland which was growing on an exspance of long disused Almond groves. Here we quickly located a single plant of Small Woodcock Orchid (Ophrys picta) and several very showy clumps of Pink Butterfly Orchid (Orchis papilionacea) and as we were walking back to the cars a dozen or so spikes of Mirror Orchid (Ophrys speculum subsp speculum). During the walk around this site we had several more Clouded Yellow butterflies, along with Cmmon Blue (Icaro (Dos Puntos) / Polyommatus icarus), Bath White (Blanqiverdosa / Pontia daplidice) and a couple of Spanish Festoons (Zerynthia rumina). Birds were hear rather than seen but they did include Orphean Warbler (Curruca Mirlano / Sylvia hortensis), Pied Flycatcher (Papamoscas Cerrojillo / Ficedula hypoleuca), Common Quail (Codorniz Común /Coturnix coturnix), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs) and Red-rumped Swallow (Golondrina Dáurica / Hirudo daurica).
The group then got back to the cars and we all said goodbye and headed off home, I made a brief stop just a couple of KMs back up the road towards Loja were I found lots more of the Orchids we had all ready seen and added my first ever confirmed Western Dappled White (Euchloe crameri) to my Granada butterfly list. I then headed Home.
Photographs from the top: Conical Orchids (Orchis conica), Aristolochia paucinervis, Sword-leaved Helleborine (Cephalanatera longifolia), some of the group, Kathy photographing the Helleborines, Pink Butterfly Orchid (Orchis papilionacea) and the full group shot.

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