Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Sierra de Loja, Granada Province.

A day in the hills and another lifer.
(Deb and Ian Day Three).
Deb, Ian and I again set off out into the countryside but this time we were staying fairly local with a day in the fantastic surroundings of Sierra de Loja, one of my favorate local sites. We started by having a look in the lower part of the pine woods near to the Motorway, the vehicle noise made hearing the birds hard but we did see and hear a few including Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Spotted Flycatcher (Papamoscas Gris / Muscicapa striata), Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto), Great Tit (Carbonera Común / Parus major) and Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus). On the sides of the track on the way up to our next stop at the turning circle wepicked out quite a few wildflowers including Chickweed (Cerastium boissieri), Mediterranean Catchfly (Silene colorata), Navel-wort (Omphalodes commutata), Pitch Trefoil (Psoralea bituminosa), Southern Daisy (Bellis cordifolia), Bellardia trixago, Tassel Hyacinth (Muscari comosum) and White Mignonette (Reseda Alba). We left the car at the turning point and started to walk up to the disused quarry and almost immediatly we heard but did not see a couple of Common Crossbills (Piquituerto Común / Loxia curvirostra), a singing Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla) which eventually showed before disappearing off down the slope and several Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus) which set off clattering through the branches as we started to make our way along the track. Just before we left the trees we found som flowers of the very nice Viola dementria in amongst the rocks along with White Rockrose (Helianthemum apenninum), Wild Gladiolus (Gladiolus illyricus), Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis), Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum), Common Stork's-bill (Erodium cicutarium) and Rosy garlic (Allium roseum). On the walk up we also recorded the first butterflies of the day, first we had several Spanish Gatekeepers (Lobito listado / Pyronia bathsheba), followed by male Moroccan Orange-tip (Anthocharis belia) and Panoptes Blue (Pseudophilotes panoptes), Clouded Yellow (Colias Común / Colias corcea), Bath White (Blanqiverdosa / Pontia daplidice) and Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui). The hill sides on both sides of the track was covered in Mediterranean scrub and darting in and around the larger bushes were a couple of family parties of Dartford Warblers (Curruca Rabilarga / Sylvia undata) most of the time they remained out of site but on a few occasions an adult or youngster would site out nicely and give us good views. On the rocky areas on the track side we found some more flowers and a couple of Orchids, the flowers included Centaurea boissieri, Centaurea prolongoi, Common Centaury (Centaurium erythraea), Wild Leek (Allium ampeloprasum), Meadow Saxifrage (Saxifraga granulata) and the Orchids were Pyramidal Orchid (Orquidea Pyramidal / Anacamptis pyramidalia), Small Woodcock Orchid (Ophrys picta) and the hybrid Ophrys x peltieri. At the point where it is possible to park the car we set up the scope and scanned the rockface above us and found an adult Eagle Owl (Buho Real / Bubo bubo) sat on it's usual ledge, along with this we soon had our first Rock Buntings (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia), Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes), Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Red-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) and Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulgar / Falco tinnunculus) of the day. In the quarry there were some extreamly noisy Spotless Starlings (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), a male Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura) and several House Martins (Avión Común / Delichon urbica). We then started to walk back down to the car, on the way we saw Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa), House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer domesticus), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus) and Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica). We then started to drive up along the crags where we made a couple of stops to scan the hawthorn bushes below the track and the cliffs above, the first obvious speices were the large numbers of Jackdaws (Grajilla / Corvus monedula) which were whirrling around in the wind with quite a few more Red-billed Choughs, also seen here were the first Common Stonechats (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata) including several young birds newly fledged, a singing male Spectacled Warbler (Curruca Tomillera / Sylvia conspicillata) which showed nicely from the top of one of the Hawthorns, a distant male Blue-rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius), Rock Sparrows (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia) and two Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua) which sat in the open right on the top of the cliffs. Our next stop was on the bend at the top of the crags where we saw a couple of butterfly species that were new for the day and one species which was new for my site list which was a Purple-shot Copper (Lycaena alciphron subsp gordius) which Deb got a couple of shots of along with Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas). in the area around the marble quarry where Ian wandered off to get some shots of the workings whilst Deb and I worked on some shots of the flowers which included Pink Butterfly Orchid (Orchis papilionacea), Red Phlomis (Phlomis purpurea), Yellow Phlomis (Phlomis lychnitis), Iris Subbiflora and Carduus granatensis. 
Just a little further on we had our first Black-eared Wheatears (Collalba Rubia / Oenanthe hispanica) of the day along with several Griffon Vultures (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus) which drifted passed distantly at eye level, Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina), Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae) and Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator). We eventually reached Charc del Negra and sat and had our lunch but just as we started the bird of the day a male Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush (Roquero Roja / Monticola saxatilis) appeared on a rock at the far end of the fence which now runs along the Northern side of the pool, this gave us nice but distant view which were quite good throught the scope, the bird disappeared so we got back to our food. A few minutes later two male Rufous-tailed Rock Thrushes zipped in and out again but the views were down to 10 meters which although brief were very good. After the food we had a look in the pool and glimped a couple of the Sharp-ribbed Salamanders (Pleurodeles waltl) and then went and had a look at the plants on the low cliff nearby which included the uncommon Saxifraga Camposii.
On the way back to the car we could hear a Natterjack Toad (Sapo Corredor / Bufo calamita) calling and added Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus F lyllus), Small White (Artogeia rapae), Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera), Meadow Brown (Maniola jurtina ssp hispulla) and Clouded Yellow (Colias Común / Colias corcea) to the day list. Once back at the car we continued on around the track to the goat cave area where we had views of more Blue Rock Thrushes, Black Wheatears, Rock Sparrows, Rock Buntings and added our first Crag Martins (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris). The ground in places was carpeted in the pink hugh of thousands of Common Stork's-bills (Erodium cicutarium) and up on the rocks there were several clumps of Erodium cheilanthifolium.
At this point we started to make our way down the hill and picked up a fine male Spanish Ibex (Cabra pyreaica hispanica), some Paeonia coriacea, Linaria anticaria and Brown Bluebell (Dipcadi serotinum). We eventually reached Loja and made our way back to the house.
Photographs from the top: Spanish Gatekeepers (Lobito listado / Pyronia bathsheba) DH, Panoptes Blue (Pseudophilotes panoptes) DH, Poppy grassland along the crags DH, Spectacled Warbler (Curruca Tomillera / Sylvia conspicillata) MDR, Purple-shot Copper (Lycaena alciphron subsp gordius) DH, Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae) DH, Carduus granatensis MDR, Common Stork's-bills (Erodium cicutarium) DH and Erodium cheilanthifolium MDR.
DH= Deb Hopton and MDR= Me.

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