Saturday, 16 November 2013

Zafarraya and Alhama areas, Malaga and Granada Provinces.

A day with Bob Wright and the Adalucian Bird Society.

I started out for the meeting point just beyond Venta de Zafarraya a little early which gave me the chance to have a quick look around the local fields just to the North of Huétor Tajar on the way, during the half hour or so I was there I saw good numbers of Stone Curlews (Alcaraván Común / Burhinus oedicnemus),80+ Little Bustards (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax), Skylark (Alondra Común / Alauda arvensis), Meadow Pipit (Bisbita Pratense / Anthus pratensis), both Azure-winged (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus) and Common Magpies (Urraca / Pica pica), Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita), Green Sandpiper (Andarrios Grande / Tringa ochropus), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus) and Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa).
I left the fields and headed down towards Zafarraya via Salar and the fields near Alhama, on the drive down I saw several flocks of Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia), Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua) and a Peregrine Falcon (Halcón Peregrino / Falco peregrinus) which sat in a dead tree along side the road.
I got to the meeting point and found a couple of car loads of birders there already, I got out of the car and immediately wanted to get back in, it was piggin freezing and it was not much better a little way along stood in the sun due to the cold wind. Anyway over the next half hour the rest of the larger than expected group turned up, half of how had not bother to let Bob know they were coming. The group was so large that it caused problems later in the day, Bob tried hard to keep every body together but when you have ten or twelve cars it is just getting silly to run in convoy and hope that every one will get to the next spot.
Anyway back to the birding, We set off a a nice lesurly pace along the old railway line and soon started to pick up good species, Bob had soon found us Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura), Blue-rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius), Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Red-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) and Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris). Just before we reached the tunnel a couple of birds flicked across the lower crags and they turned out to be Alpine Accentors (Acentor Alpino / Prunella modularis) which at this poing gave us distant but identifiable views, from here we also picked up a couple of Spanish Ibex (Cabra pyreaica hispanica) which were moving around on the higher crags, a Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera) and Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) which got the butterfly list off to a start. We then moved through the tunnel and as we looked back on to the crags above the exit we picked up a much closer Alpine Accentor feeding in the fishers and cracks along with a Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes), several Linnets (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina) and a Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris). A little further on a soaring group of seven Griffon Vultures (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus) came in to view, in this area we also saw Common Stonechat, Meadow Pipit, Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus) and Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulgar / Falco tinnunculus). We turned around and soon saw a nice Peregrine Falcon round the top of the crags and lower down we added Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria), Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) and Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) were added to the butterfly list. Just as we reached the tunnel again we picked up the Accentor again but a different bird this time as it did not have a ring on which the bird earlier had, this one gave us the chance of a few photo's before it disappeared.  We went back through the tunnel and between the exit and the cars we added Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia), Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Sparrowhawk (Gavilán Común / Accipiter nisus) and Dartford Warbler (Curruca Rabilarga / Sylvia undata) to the growing day list.
We got into the cars and headed out to the area Bob knows as the Brambling wood but there were no Bramblings today, however we had nice views of Mistle Thrush, Robin (Petirrojo Europeo / Erithacus rubecula) and a distant but huge flock of Red-billed Chough numbering around 200 birds. 
We again moved on but just up the road on to the fields heading towards Alhama de Granada, we parked on the roadside and scanned the fields where we eventually located the wanted flock of Calandra Larks (Calandria / Melanocorypha calandra) with a few Skylarks (Alondra Común / Alauda arvensis) in the mix. In this area we also saw Crested Lark (Cogujada / Galerida cristata), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor) and Corn Bunting.
From here we headed to the Pantaneta de Alhama which was where it started to go wrong as we lost two of the cars from the centre of the convoy and they did not find there way to the spot or manage to rejoin the group later. Bob tried hard to keep the group together but with so many cars it is hard work and then to get the hassle he got off one member was out of order.
Again back to the birding, we parked up and whilst a couple of the group tried contacting the lost members via mobile phones the rest of us went birding, on the lake we managed to add Common Pochard (Porrón Común / Aythya ferina), Northern Shoveler (Pato Cuchara / Anas clypeata), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinulas chloropus), Eurasian Coot (Focha Común / Fulica atra) and Little Grebe (Zampullín Común / Tachybaptus ruficollis). Some of the group then went and had coffee at the nearby bar whilst Bob, I and another chap went and checked out the woods, just out of the car park I found several well over with spikes of the uncommon Orchid Epipactis fageticola. Once we were in the woods we picked up a couple of Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea) which were roosting on the far side of the reedbeds, a flock of Long-tailed Tits (Mito / Aegithalos caudatus),
Great Tit (Carbonera Común / Parus major), Firecrest (Reyezuelo Listado / Regulus ignicapillus), Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla), Great Spotted Woodpecker (Pico Picapinos / Dendrocopos major), Song Thrush (Zorzal Común / Turdus philomelos) and a calling but unseen Reed Bunting (Escribano Palustre / Emberiza schoeniclus). We returned to the cars and headed off to our last stop in the woods at El Robledal, on the way we picked up a Green Woodpecker (Pito Real / Picus viridis) and Common Buzzard (Busardo Ratonero / Buteo buteo) for the list. We parked up at the woods and did a circular walk through the mixed woodland where we were treated to some cracking views of a flock of Crested Tits (Herrerillo Capuchino / Parus cristatus),along with both Coal (Carbonero Garrapinos / Parus ater) and Blue Tits (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus), Common Crossbill (Piquituerto Común / Loxia curvirostra), Nuthatch (Trepador Azul / Sitta europaea) and Jay (Arrendajo / Garrulus glandarius) plus a Clouded Yellow (Colias Común / Colias corcea) butterfly. We returned to the cars and Steve took me back to the start point (Thanks Steve) and I headed off home through some light snow!!!!!! 

Thanks for a great day Bob and for the Lift Steve. Bob post for this day can be found on his blog at http://www.birdingaxarquia2.blogspot.com.es/

Photographs from the top: Alpine Accentors (Acentor Alpino / Prunella modularis), Peregrine Falcon (Halcón Peregrino / Falco peregrinus), another shot of the Accentor, tow of the seven Griffon Vultures (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus), Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae) and Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata).

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