Thursday, 16 May 2013

Sierra de Loja, Granada Province.

A days birding with the Axarquia bird group.

I usually end up missing the groups meeting so I was very pleased when Steve Foster a visitor holidaying here said he would be interested in going as well and could get us to the meeting place. We arrived to met a group of ten more birders ready to brave the wind, possible heavy rain and cold, as it turns out we got two of the three and avoided the rain. We left the car park in three cars (thanks to the drivers who gave Steve and myself a lift up the hill) and started off by parking at the bottom of the narrow track up to the disused quarry and started the walk up. We soon picked up several Azure-winged Magpies (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus), Great Tit (Carbonera Común / Parus major), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Coal Tit (Carbonero Garrapinos / Parus ater) and Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris) all before we left the cover of the Pine Woodlands. Once we were out in the open we started to find a wide selection of wildflowers including a few species of Orchid including one very special plant. Straight away we found Viola dementria, Southern Knapweed (Centaurea pullata ssp pullata), White Rockrose (Helianthemum apenninum), Wild Gladiolus (Gladiolus illyricus), White Mignonette (Reseda Alba), Rusty-back Fern (Ceterach officinarum) and nearer the top of the track we found several spikes of the Small Woodcock Orchid (Ophrys picta) and along side these was a single spike of the rare hybrid Ophrys x peltieri which we originally found on this meeting back on the 17th May 2012. It is the hybrid between Ophrys tenthredinifera and Ophrys Picta (Scolopax) and with information seen recently it was the first record of this Orchid for Granada Province at that time. We eventually (the plant hunters) reached the quarry to find that Bob and the others had already got the Eagle Owl (Buho Real / Bubo bubo) in the scopes, in and around the quarry we also saw a very smart Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura), Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia), Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes), Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris) and Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulgar / Falco tinnunculus). In the quarry and on the banks nearby there were also quite a few wildflowers including Chickweed (Cerastium boissieri), Common Poppy (Papaver rhoeas), Common Snapdragon (Antirrhinum major), Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum), Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis), Tassel Hyacinth (Muscari comosum), Mediterranean Kidney Vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria), Mediterranean Catchfly (Silene colorata), Navel-wort (Omphalodes commutata), Carduus granatensis and Crambe filiformis.
During the walk back down the hill we had good numbers of Spotted Flycatcher (Papamoscas Gris / Muscicapa striata), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa), Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula), House Martin (Avión Común / Delichon urbica), Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica), Common Swift (Vencejo Común / Apus apus), Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops) heard only and Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto). We got back into the cars and headed up along the track through the Pine Woods where we heard and some of the saw a Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla), plus Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula) and Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricailla) heard only. We made a quick stop at the lower end of the crags where we watched both Jackdaw and Red-billed Choughs (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) enjoying the brisk breeze and doing some stylish aerobatics. Slightly higher up the crags we parked again and scanned the Hawthorn bushes where we could hear but did not see both Spectacled (Curruca Tomillera / Sylvia conspicillata) and Orphean Warblers (Curruca Mirlano / Sylvia hortensis), plus Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata) and Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina). Plants around here were Buckler Mustard (Biscutella frutescens) which was in seed, Common Stork's-bill (Erodium cicutarium), Rosy garlic (Allium roseum) and Dianthus pungens. We then ventured out on to the tops and started seeing the first of the days Thekla Larks (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae) and Black-eared Wheatears (Collalba Rubia / Oenanthe hispanica) seeing both variations of the species. We steadily made our way to Charca del Negro, on the way we also saw Griffon Vulture (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus), Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua), Spectacled Warbler and Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis). Plants included Pink Butterfly Orchid (Orchis papilionacea), Pyramidal Orchid (Orquidea Pyramidal / Anacamptis pyramidalia), Blue Hedgehog Broom (Erinacea anthyllis), Southern Red Bartsia (Parentucellia latifolia), White Rockrose (Helianthemum apenninum) and Brown Bluebell (Dipcadi serotinum). We had our lunch whilst we were at Charca and during this hour or so we had fantastic view of a male Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush (Roquero Roja / Monticola saxatilis) which came down quite close and showed very well, we also had nice views of Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra) and more Black Redstarts, Red-billed Choughs including a bird on a nest in the cliff nearby and Black-eared Wheartears including a stunning male. On the cliffs there were several cushions of the uncommon Saxifraga Camposii.
We moved on around the corner towards the goat cave and in the fields below the road we saw a fine male Spanish Ibex (Cabra pyreaica hispanica), lots more Rock Sparrows, a pair of Black Wheatears and Erodium cheilanthifolium.
From here we started to make our way back down the hill but we did not add anything new. Other things seen during the day included Grayling (Hipparchia semele), Clouded Yellow (Colias Común / Colias corcea), Large White (Pieris brassicae), Panoptes Blue (Pseudophilotes panoptes), Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui), Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas), Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus F lyllus) and Spanish Gatekeeper (Lobito listado / Pyronia bathsheba).
We arrived back at the small quarry on the way down and had more good views of the Eagle Owl and picked up a male Blue-rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius) to finish the day off nicely. Steve and myself then went in the service area for a coffee and waited for Jayne to pick us up on her way back from the Trabuca Craft Group.
The Group consisted of Bob Wright, Mary-Ann Murphy, Lesley Laver, Bryan Stapley, James Moore, Michael McLaine, Eric and Pat Lyon, Gerry Collins, Steve Forster and Myself.

Photographs from the top: Ophrys x peltieri, Eagle Owl (Buho Real / Bubo bubo), Linaria anticaria, Spanish Gatekeeper (Lobito listado / Pyronia bathsheba) and Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush (Roquero Roja / Monticola saxatilis) this shot was taken by Bob Wright and has kindly let me use it here.

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