One of those days !!!!
I got up early to go up to Granada to meet up with Juan Perez and his brother Jose for a trip up to Sierra Morena hoping to get a look at the critically endangered Pardel / Iberian Lynx (Lynx lutra). I made my way across the fields towards Huétor and the first species of the day was a Red Fox (Zorro / Vulpus vulpus) which as we were looking for mammals I took as a good omen as I had not seen them on the local patch before.I continued on up to Granada and we all set off on the Motorways north then west to Andujar and then out into the hills of Sierra Morena. On the way we saw Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), Common Buzzard (Busardo Ratonero / Buteo buteo), Feral Pigeon (Columba livia), Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto), Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis) and Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus). We entered that area for the Lynx and made our first stop about 10KM from the area where we normally spend the day and scanned a broad firebreak, I raised my bins for the first time to check a shape on the right hand side of the open area and was amazed to see a stunning adult Lynx just coming out of the scrub. I made sure that Juan and Jose were both on it before having some stunning views of this magnifisant animal. It bimbled around in the open for a couple of minutes before going into the central band of bushes, at this point Juan had his scope up and when he came out the other side we had great views for a while longer until he disappeard in to the scrub on the far side of the break. We calmed down a bit after the excitment and checked what else was about whilst keeping a keen eye on the area just in case he returned, he did not in the hour or so we stayed but we did see several Red Deer (Cervus elaphus), another Fox, Woodlark (Totovia / Lullula arborea), Great (Carbonera Común / Parus major), Blue (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus) and Crested Tits (Herrerillo Capuchino / Parus cristatus), Green Woodpecker (Pito Real / Picus viridis), Dartford (Curruca Rabilarga / Sylvia undata) and Sardinian Warblers (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Common (Urraca / Pica pica) and Azure-winged Magpies (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus) and Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula) before we moved on. As we had already had views of the Lynx we continued on passed the usual spots and dropped down to the dam to see what was about, on the way we picked up Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa), Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris) and in one of the dead looking Eucalyptus trees a small flock of three Hawfinches (Picogordo / Coccotraustes coccotrauetes). We parked near the main dam wall and walked across to the far side scanning the dull cloudy skies for raptors with out success, however we did see several Black Redstarts (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia), Grey Heron (Garza Real / Ardea cinerea) and Grey Wagtail (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea) before heading back up to the areas where we usually spend the day looking for the Lynx. We parked on the track side and started to scan the rocks but only managed to add Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) to the mammal list but we did get nice views of more Red Deer. After a couple of hours a patch of blue sky appeared in the distance and slowly the clouds broke up and the sun started to warm things up a bit and with in half an hour the skies were litterally full of raptors. The commonest were Griffon Vultures (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus) with a couple of dozen drifting around, with these came quite a few Black / Cinereous Vultures (Buitre Negro / Aegypius monachus) and then a couple of stunning adult Spanish Imperial Eagles (Aguila Imperial Ibérica / Aguila adalberti) came up and started to call (a strange sound, a cross between a strangled duck and a Raven). The one bird drifted off but the second came in close and then passed right overhead and reappeared several times during the afternoon, as did the Vultures and a Sparrowhawk (Gavilán Común / Accipiter nisus). We also saw a couple of butterflies, Clouded Yellow (Colias Común / Colias corcea) and Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta). After a while we moved up the track a short way and joined a group of watches on an organised tour with a guide. After a while I took a walk along the track a short way to get a photo of a plant that I had seen Iberian Milk-vetch (Astragalus lusitanicus) and as I turned around to walk back I could see that there was a bit of a flap on back amongst the group so I quickened the pace a bit and got back just in time to have a view of a second Lynx walking across some rocks, it was very brief and thanks to the young Spanish lad who let me use his scope for a few seconds. Juan also had more distant views a little later. By now the light was dropping quite quickly and very pleased with what we had seen we decided to start the journey home, we stopped briefly for a coffee and then hit the motorways again.
Thanks to Juan for driving and to him and Jose of some great company on a cracking day.
Photographs from the top: Pardel / Iberian Lynx (Lynx lutra), adult Black / Cinereous Vulture (Buitre Negro / Aegypius monachus), Spanish Imperial Eagle (Aguila Imperial Ibérica / Aguila adalberti) x2, Griffon Vulture (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus), immature Black Vulture and a second shot of the Lynx, in this shot looking rather heavy in the belly.