Friday, 4 April 2014

Sierra de Loja and Zafarraya Road, Granada Province.

A day of birds and Orchids with Kalpana and Will.
Day two.

Our second days birding started on a much brighter note with the sun shining nicely as we made our way down to Loja and up on to the Sierra above the town. We came up the step track and made our way up towards the smaller quarry, on the way we stopped in amongst the pine woods and had brief flight views of our first Azure-winged Magpies (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus), in the same area we also had MistleThrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris) Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus) and a Red Squirrel (Sclurus vulgaris). We continued on to the quarry and walked in along the track, just as we left the car we saw a fine male Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura), quickly followed by Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia), Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes), Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica) and House Martin (Avión Común / Delichon urbica). We walked back out of the quarry and spent some time looking at the wildflowers and Orchids on the rocky slopes, on one large rock we had several plants of the rare endemic Torcal Toadflax (Linaria anticaria), Rusty-back Fern (Ceterach officinarum), Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum) and Western ramping-fumitory (Fumaria occidentalis). In the same area we also found Viola dementria, White Mustard (Sinapis alba), Warty Spurge (Euphorbia squamigera), Southern Wild Tulip (Tulipa sylvestris ssp. australis) not yet in flower and White Rockrose (Helianthemum apenninum).
From here we made our way up the hill and along the crags were we had nice views of Red-billed Choughs (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax), Jackdaws (Grajilla / Corvus monedula), heard a Green Woodpecker (Pito Real / Picus viridis) lower down amongst the trees and Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa). Again we carried on up onto the level areas and soon started to see good numbers of Thekla Larks (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina), Black-eared Wheatears (Collalba Rubia / Oenanthe hispanica) of both face pattern varients, a single male Northern Wheatear (Collalba Gris / Oenanthe oenanthe) and several Meadow Pipits (Bisbita Pratense / Anthus pratensis). 
We made a roadside stop and had a walk in to the broom scrub and eventually saw a male SpectacledWarbler (Curruca Tomillera / Sylvia conspicillata) but he was not helpful and did a single song flight and disappeared in to the distance. We continued on heading for Charca del Negra but the cloud cover dropped and we decided that it was pointless going on as we could not see any thing so we turned around and started to drop back down. On the way we had two Griffon Vultures (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus) drift by and on our second visit to the track up to the quarry we had nice views of a male Dartford Warbler (Curruca Rabilarga / Sylvia undata). We dropped down even further and headed back towards Loja, on the way we had some good views of a pair of Azure-winged Magpies building a nest in a flimsy looking Almond tree.
Our next stop was lunch down in Riofrio Montagu's Harriers (Aguilucho Cenizo / Circus pygargus) one in flight and another perched on a fence post. Our next port of call was at an area of grassland near Zafarraya where were we looking for Orchids, straight away we had several spikes of Giant Orchid (Himantoglossum robertiana), followed by several Yellow Bee  (Orquídea Abejera / Ophrys lutea), Conical (Orchis conica), Mirror (Ophrys speculum subsp speculum) and by far the best were several spikes of just opening Pink Butterfly (Orchis papilionacea). In the same area we saw Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera), Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus F lyllus), Bath White (Blanqiverdosa / Pontia daplidice) and heard a distant Common Quail (Codorniz Común / Coturnix coturnix). We retraced our way back up the valley and stopped again on the way back towards Loja and checked out another patch of Oak Woodland. Here we saw several of the Orchid species already seen but added Southern Early Purple Orchid (Chupaeros / Orchis olbiensis), Sawfly Orchid (Flor de avispa / Ophrys tenthredinifera) and lots of not yet flowering Sword-leaved Helleborine (Cephalanatera longifolia).
where we had an OKish menu del dia at Paco Rama before heading down the western side of the Sierra. Our first stop was to watch a couple of male
Birds seen or heard included Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Robin (Petirrojo Europeo / Erithacus rubecula), Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), Crested Lark (Cogujada / Galerida cristata) and Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus). Again we moved a little way down the road and had our last walk of the day through some more open Oak trees, here we saw Woodlark (Totovia / Lullula arborea), Clouded Yellow (Colias Común / Colias corcea), Spanish Festoon (Zerynthia rumina) and many more of the same species of Orchid already recorded.
Thanks to Kalpana and Will for two very enjoyable days Birding and Botanising.

Photographs from the top: Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa), Torcal Toadflax (Linaria anticaria), Thekla Larks (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Yellow Bee Orchid  (Orquídea Abejera / Ophrys lutea), Jackdaws (Grajilla / Corvus monedula), Black-eared Wheatears (Collalba Rubia / Oenanthe hispanica), Southern Early Purple Orchid (Chupaeros / Orchis olbiensis), Sawfly Orchid (Flor de avispa / Ophrys tenthredinifera), Pink Butterfly Orchid (Orchis papilionacea), Giant Orchid (Himantoglossum robertiana) and Conical Orchid (Orchis conica).

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