A morning along the Western valley.
Montagu's Harriers (Aguilucho Cenizo / Circus pygargus) as I had a few days earlier and again they performed well and I saw at least three males and two females. In the same area I saw several Azure-winged Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus), Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator), Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulgar / Falco tinnunculus) and a very brave or stupid Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra).
I returned to Venta del Raya where I met up with Lisca, Graham, Sheila and Roger before returning to the same spot. At the bar where we met we saw a nice male Golden Oriole (Oropéndola / Oriolus oriolus), several Collared Doves (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto), House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer domesticus) and Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica) before leaving. Back at the Montagu's fields we soon had cracking views of several males and a female displaying. We watched these birds for quite a while before moving on down the valley to the first of our Orchid stops, straight away we found large numbers of the common but beautiful Yellow Bee Orchid (Orquídea Abejera / Ophrys lutea) and nearby a couple of spikes of Sawfly (Flor de avispa / Ophrys tenthredinifera) which were still in nice condition. Other flowers on the first short stretch included Common Fumitory (Fumaria officinalis), Dove's Foot Cranesbill (Geranium molle), Eruca (Eruca sativa), Cymbalaria-leaved Speedwell (Veronica cymbalaria), Gorse (Ulex europaeus), Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), Wild Peony (Paeonia broteroi), Silvery Paronychia (Paronychia argentea), Common Mallow (Malva sylvestris) and Astragalus stella.
Birds were also seen and heard here including Woodlark (Totovia / Lullula arborea), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Crested Lark (Cogujada / Galerida cristata), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Common Cuckoo (Cuco Común / Cuculus canorus) heard only, Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs) and a fine male Cirl Bunting (Escribano Soteno / Emberiza cirlus).
We spent a short while sheltering under a large Round-leaved Oak (Quercus rotundifolia) as a brief but heavy squall passed over.
The shower passed and we continued on and were soon looking at the first of quite a few Conical Orchid (Orchis conica) which was growing on the edge of a small clearing, under the nearby trees we found another twenty or so spikes still in good condition in the shade, this was followed by a just passed its best Giant Orchid (Himantoglossum robertiana). We moved out on to the edge of a small cereal field where we had our first Butterflies of the morning which were Small White (Artogeia rapae) and Common Blue (Icaro (Dos Puntos) / Polyommatus icarus). On the field margins we found several new plant including Blue Hounds-tongue (Cynoglossum creticum), Shepherds Needles (Scandix pecten-veneris), Southern Knapweed (Centaurea pullata ssp pullata), Warty Spurge (Euphorbia squamigera), Pitch Trefoil (Psoralea bituminosa), Purple Bugloss (Echium plantagineum), Spring Rockcress (Arabis verna), Southern Daisy (Bellis cordifolia) and Field Madder (Sherardia arvensis).
We continued on to a larger clearing and then into another area of Oaks where we quickly found quite a few spikes of the just about flowering Sword-leaved Helleborine (Cephalanatera longifolia) and a couple of nice pink Southern Early Purple Orchids (Chupaeros / Orchis olbiensis). We could also hear Bonelli's Warbler (Mosquitero Papialbo / Phylloscopus bonelli) but we could not see it, however we did see Great Tit (Carbonera Común / Parus major), Blackcap (Curruca Capirotada / Sylvia atricailla), House Martin (Avión Común / Delichon urbica), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala) and just before reaching the car a fly over Griffon Vulture (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus).
Our next stop was at the disused railway line above Venta de Zafarraya where we were looking mainly for birds, on the way we had both Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator) and Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata) sat on a wire fence. Once at the railway we got off to a good start with a male Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura) sat on a rock near the car park, several Red-billed Choughs (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) over the main crag, Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia), Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris), Blue-rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius), Peregrine Falcon (Halcón Peregrino / Falco peregrinus), Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros) and Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes) all recorded before we reached the tunnel. Near the tunnel we saw several new plant species including Bitting Stonecrop (Sedum acre), Crambe filiformis, Mediterranean Kidney Vetch (Anthyllis vulneraria), Rusty-back Fern (Ceterach officinarum), Scarlet Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis) and a couple of butterflies Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera) and Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas). We did not see anything new on the far side of the tunnel but had better views of a Rock Sparrow.
Our final stop was on the way back just North of Zafarraya where again we were mainly targeting Orchids, on the way we made a short stop in the village while we watched a very nice Short-toed Eagle (Culebrera Europeo / Circaetus gallicus) drift by. Once at the next spot we started off with a field full of Yellow Bee and a few Mirror Orchids (Ophrys speculum subsp speculum), here we also had more Common Blue Butterflies and a very nice Spanish Festoon (Zerynthia rumina). We walked a short distance and looked for some spikes of Small Woodcock Orchid (Orquídea abejera becada / Ophrys picta) but all we found were blind rosettes. Just over the next rise we came across a fantastic show of the beautiful Pink Butterfly Orchid (Orchis papilionacea) with around 30 spikes growing close together in a small clearing. From here we walked slowly back to the car adding Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria), Moroccan Orange-tip (Anthocharis belia), Clouded Yellow (Colias Común / Colias corcea), Bath White (Blanqiverdosa / Pontia daplidice) and Cleopatra (Cleopatra / Gonepteryx cleopatra) to the butterfly list. Once back at the car we took a slow drive back to the meeting point picking up Turtle Dove (Tórtola Europea / Streptopelia turtur) and Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops) on the way.
Thanks to Lisca, Graham, Sheila and Roger for supporting Granada Wildlife and the great comments at the end of the tour.
Photographs from the top: Montagu's Harriers (Aguilucho Cenizo / Circus pygargus), Astragalus stella, Sword-leaved Helleborine (Cephalanatera longifolia), Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera), Short-toed Eagle (Culebrera Europeo / Circaetus gallicus), Pink Butterfly Orchid (Orchis papilionacea) and Graham, Lisca, Sheila and Roger.