Sunday, 13 July 2014

Sierra Nevada, Granada Province.

An amazing day in the mountain with a small group organised by Jose Antonio Díaz of Granada Natural.

I left home at 08:00 to meet a small group for a day photographing wildlife on the Western slopes of the Sierra Nevada between 2500m and 2980m. I arrived a bit early and had a quick look at the Rio Genil near the garage where we were meeting, here I saw Grey Wagtail (Lavandera Cascadena / Motacilla cinerea), Blue Tit (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus), Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica), House Martin (Avión Común / Delichon urbica), Pallid Swift (Vencejo Pálido /Apus pallidus) and Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala).
The first person to arrive was Enric Martí who luckily for me spoke some English, soon we were joined by Mari Carmen Casas and her partner and then Jose Antonio Díaz the organiser of the day and guide. Jose and I piled into Enric´s car and maded our way up to the car park at 2500m where we met Manuel Becerra Parra and Juan Rios Pimentel. Once we were kitted up we started to make our way up along the roads and tracks passed the statue Virgen des las Nieves, all the way we were seeing good numbers of the endemic subspecies Apollo (Apolo / Parnassius apollo subsp nevadensis). Plants on this first section included Jurinea humilis, Ptilotrichum spinosum, Eryngium glaciale and just passed the Virgin we came in to an area of the little Geranium Erodium cheilanthifolium which whilst not only being beautiful is the food plant of the uncommon Spanish Argus (Aricia morronensis) which is a local subspecieson the mountain. We continued on up the road and took the turn to the upper ski station and then turned off on to a track which twisted and turned its way up to Lagunillas de la Virgin where we had lunch. On the way we made lots of stops to photograph some of the rarest of the endemic plants founds in the area, just after we left the road Mari Carmen got very excited when a very 
nice Apollo sat for long enough for her to get some very good shot´s, she got some more in almost the same location on the way back down. At one of the first water courses we found lots of the very nice Hairbell like plant called Campanula herminii along with Lotus glareosus, Reseda complicata, Plantago nivalis, Arenaria pungens and Carduus carlinoides subsp hispanicus. We continued on along the track up over a ridge and down to Embalse de la Laguna de las Yeguas, during this part of the walk we saw several of the rare endemic butterfly Nevada Blue (Plebicula golgus subsp golgus) as well as Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae), Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui), Purple-shot Copper (Lycaena alciphron subsp gordius), Clouded Yellow (Colias Común / Colias corcea), Common Blue (Icaro (Dos Puntos) / Polyommatus icarus) and lots more Apollo´s. Plants included Jasione crispa, Asplenium septentrionale, Leucanthemopsis pectnata, Euphrasia willkommii, Linaria earuginea subsp. nevadensis, Linaria glacialis, Water Violet (Viola palustris), Veronica nevadensis subsp. nevadensis and Armeria splendens. We dropped down to the first Embalse and then up to the second pool where we had lunch on a large rock beside the Lagunillas de la Virgin which was half covered in a snow drift which was melting fast feeding several small streams. In the damp areas we found Ranunculus demissus, Cerastium cerastoides, Sedum anglicum subsp melanantherum, Ptilotrichum purpureum, Chaenorhinum glareosum, Alpine Gentian (Gentiana alpina), Nevada House Leek (Sempervivum minutum) and the variable but beautiful Sierra Nevada Violet (Viola crassiuscula / Violeta de Sierra Nevada).
We had lunch and then checked out the scree above the site where we found a cracking clump of Linaria glacialis, along with Sideritis glacialis, Silene rupestris, Dianthus subacaulis subsp brachyanthus and Arenaria imbricata. Birds seen in this area and on the way up included Tawny Pipit (Bisbita campestre / Anthus campestris), Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia), Northern Wheatear (Collalba Gris / Oenanthe oenanthe), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina), House Martin (Avión Común / Delichon urbica), Pallid Swift (Vencejo Pálido /Apus pallidus), Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulgar / Falco tinnunculus) and whilst we were on the slopes above the pool Mari spotted a large raptor over the ridge above us which turned out to be an immature Lammergeier / Bearded Vulture (Quebrantahuesos / Gypaetus barbatus). The bird moved along the ridge and then dropped down much closer and checked out the area above the laguna below us which meant we got some superb views and I managed some okish shots. 
Once the bird had moved on we started to make our way back down to the pool and then on down the hill back towards the cars. On the way down we picked up a few more species including Pinguicola nevadensis and Gentiana boryi
Once we were back at the cars we dropped down the hill a short way to a disused visiting area where there were a couple of small pools and large areas of damp grassland where we found a few spikes of Robust Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza elata), what I think were lots of spkes of Nepeta granatensis, Corn Cockle (Agrostemma githago), Carpentor Bee (Xylocopa violacea), a single male Southern Skimmer (Orthetrum brunneum), Iberian Marbled White (Medioluto Ibérica / Melanargia lachesis) and the spider Aculepeira armida.

I was very lucky to spend the day in the Sierra Nevada with this small group of like minded naturalists who wanted to take photographs of the area's fantastic flora and fauna. I would like to thank the others in the group for being very patient with my very bad Spanish and for making me feel very welcome on the walk.
We saw a fantastic range of rare and endemic species in an outstanding area of beautiful views and scenery. Thanks again for inviting me on this superb day.

Photographs from the top: Lammergeier / Bearded Vulture (Quebrantahuesos / Gypaetus barbatus), Nevada House Leek (Sempervivum minutum), Spanish Argus (Aricia morronensis), Erodium cheilanthifolium, Sierra Nevada Violet (Viola crassiuscula / Violeta de Sierra Nevada), Linaria glacialis, Plantago nivalis, Lagunillas de la Virgin and Apollo (Apolo / Parnassius apollo subsp nevadensis).

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