Monday, 27 May 2013

Sierra Nevada, Granada Province.

A Lifer up in the snow and some wild flowers in the Northern Valley's.
(Deb and Ian's last tour, Day eight).

We made our way up the hill on the main road and turned off on to the road up to El Porche and parked in amongst the Pine woods. We then had a wander along one of the tracks out into the more open areas beyond the Pine belt in to the gorse scrub, here we were checking out what plants were still in flower and found Paeonia coriacea, Sedum mucizonia, Polygala boissieri and Berberis hispanica. Whilst we were in this area we had good views of a singing Firecrest (Reyezuelo Listado / Regulus ignicapillus), a calling Bonelli's Warbler (Mosquitero Papialbo / Phylloscopus bonelli), Jay (Arrendajo / Garrulus glandarius), Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes), a pair of fast moving Crested Tits (Herrerillo Capuchino /Parus cristatus), Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla), plus both Blue (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus) and Coal Tits (Carbonero Garrapinos / Parus ater), Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricailla) and Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus). At the furthest point from the car we found a couple of Orchid species growing under the pines the first was the very common Yellow Bee Orchid (Ophrys lutea) which had finished flowering down in the lowlands several weeks ago but up at 1500 meters or so they were still hanging on, the second species was the much rarer Orchis cazorlensis which I had seen in the area for the last few years. We then moved on to a nearby site, a large area of sloping grassland with scattered Hawthorn trees and several small wet flushes. I was hoping to find some flowering Fragrant Bug Orchids (Orchis coriophora subsp fragrans) but they were a good couple of weeks away from flowering but the site was worth visiting just for the views and both Ian and Deb took several shot. We did record Nightingale (Ruisenor Común / Luscinia megarhynchos) and Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica) plus Common Blue (Icaro (Dos Puntos) / Polyommatus icarus), Bath White (Blanqiverdosa / Pontia daplidice), Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus F lyllus) and Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas).
From here we went up to the car park at 2500 meters and parked by the green Army building, on the way we had good views of a neck collared male Spanish Ibex (Cabra pyreaica hispanica), at the top we scanned across the still sizable snow fields and picked up Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Northern Wheatear (Collalba Gris / Oenanthe oenanthe), House (Avión Común / Delichon urbica) and Crag Martins (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris) and both Common (Vencejo Común / Apus apus) and Pallid Swifts (Vencejo Pálido /Apus pallidus) but there was no sign of the target Alpine Accentor (Acentor Alpino / Prunella modularis) so we started to walk up towards the upper ski station. On the way we saw several more Northern Wheatears feeding out on the snow picking off all the insects blown from the surrounding rocks, along with both House (Gorrión Común / Passer domesticus) and Rock Sparrows (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia) plus a couple of singng Skylarks (Alondra Común / Alauda arvensis) which we only see and hear at this sort of altitued. After a good walk we picked up a small flock of birds which dropped down on to an area of bare ground amongst the snow, as soon as I saw and heard the birds I knew we had found our quarry. We walked up the nearby crag and out on to the snow field and had some great views of a bird which flew straight passed us and on into the ski station so we followed and found it drinking from a puddle near the chair lift station. Deb got some shots of this bird while Ian and I watched from further back, it flew up on to the roof of the lift house which was at the same level as us due to the snow so Deb moved around and walked up to the bird and got very close to this cracking species. After good views were had we started to walk back down to the car seeing Draba hispanica subsp hispánica on the way and then dropped down through the upper part of the hill and took the old road very soon we started to find new species of flower and butterfly as well as a few birdss. Our first stop was near the top of the road just after we turned on to it and we found good numbers of the beautiful Southern Wild Tulips (Tulipa sylvestris ssp. australis), Meadow Saxifrage (Saxifraga granulata), Blue Hedgehog Broom (Erinacea anthyllis) and Yellow Phlomis (Phlomis lychnitis). We then dropped a little further down the hill and parked on a bend next to an area of open grassland, here we had our lunch and started to search for new species in the surroundings, we soon found Tragopogon pratensis, Southern Red Bartsia (Parentucellia latifolia), Gagea lacaitae, Onosma tricerosperma subsp granatensis, Southern Early Purple Orchid (Orchis olbiensis) in both white and deep pink forms and a nice group of Lange's Orchids (Orchis langei). Butterflies included Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera), Spanish Gatekeeper (Lobito listado / Pyronia bathsheba), Small White (Artogeia rapae), Marsh Fritillary (Euphydrayas aurinia beckeri), Brown Argus (Aricia agestis), Clouded Yellow (Colias Común / Colias corcea), Panoptes (Pseudophilotes panoptes) and Common Blue (Icaro (Dos Puntos) / Polyommatus icarus) and Black-veined White (Banca del Majuelo / Aporia crataegi). Again we continued on down this narrow road stopping at another couple of spots amongst the Sweet Chestnut woods picking up Bonelli's Warbler (Mosquitero Papialbo / Phylloscopus bonelli), Common Cuckoo (Cuco Común / Cuculus canorus), Golden Oriole (Oropéndola / Oriolus oriolus), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Robin (Petirrojo Europeo / Erithacus rubecula), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala) and Turtle Dove (Tórtola Europea / Streptopelia turtur). We also recorded several more wildflower species including some just going over Barton's Orchids (Dactylorhiza insularis), Sword-leaved Helleborine (Cephalanatera longifolia) and Water Avens (Geum rivale). Down at the lower levels of the valley we stopped at a spot where after some searching we eventually located a Dipper (Mirlo Acuático / Cinclus cinclus), Grey Wagtail (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea) on the river Genil and in the air above us a couple of Red-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) and Crag Martins. Our last stop was on the road side where we photographed a nice clump of the beautiful Spanish Rusty Foxglove (Digitalis obscura) which Deb commented was plant of the trip for her.
We then headed back down through Guejar-Sierra and Pinos Genil to the motorway and back to the house where I had a master class in the correct way to cook on a barbie from Ian who produce along with Jayne a cracking last night meal. Whilst eating we had a last view of the local Stone Curlew (Alcaraván Común / Burhinus oedicnemus) and Red-necked Nightjar (Chotacabras Cuellirrojo / Caprimulgus ruficollis) which both did a nice fly by.

Photographs from the top: View from El Porche MDR, Spanish Ibex (Cabra pyreaica hispanica) DH, View on the Barranco de San Juan MDR, Alpine Accentor (Acentor Alpino / Prunella modularis) DH, the three of us at the upper ski station IH, Southern Wild Tulips (Tulipa sylvestris ssp. australis) DH, Ian photographing the Peonies DH, Onosma tricerosperma subsp granatensis, Tragopogon pratensis and enjoying the B-B-Q back at the house.

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