Friday, 17 April 2015

Sierra de Loja, Granada Province.

A day with the Ladies birding on my favourate hill.
Day Seven.

We had a slower start than yesterday as we were heading just up the road to the superb Sierra de Loja, this is a site where you can catch up with all the best upland species to be found in Andalucia along with some special plants and butterflies.
We started off by having a look for the Eagle Owl (Buho Real / Bubo bubo) from the lower quarry but there was no sign of the bird and all we managed to pick up was a pair of Common Kestrels (Cernicalo Vulgar / Falco tinnunculus), Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula), Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris) and Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa). From here we moved up along the crags seeing Iberian Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus) and out on to the flatter tops and soon picked up the first of many Thekla Larks (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Black-eared (Collalba Rubia / Oenanthe hispanica) and Black Wheatears (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura), Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua), Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops) and Linnets (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina).
Just above the large marble quarry we made a track side stop and successfully searched the area of broom scrub for the small and elusive Spectacled Warbler (Curruca Tomillera / Sylvia conspicillata) and in the same area we found Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata).
We drove quiet quickly out to Charca del Negro stopping just the once just before the turn to the pool to look at Viola dementria, Southern Early Purple Orchid (ChupaerosAndrorchis Olbiensis), Common Asphodel (Asphodelus albus), Common Stork's-bill (Erodium cicutarium), White Rockrose (Helianthemum apenninum) and Upland Peony (Paeonia coriacea).
We parked near the Charca and soon added a nice male Subalpine Warbler (Curruca Carrasquena / Sylvia cantillans) to the list which was singing in a small stunted Hawthorn along with a cracking male Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia). We spent a little time getting views of the Sharp-ribbed Salamanders (Pleurodeles waltl) as they came up for air and whilst we were watching these interesting amphibians we had a fine male Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush (Roquero Roja / Monticola saxatilis) singing on a hunting sign on a mid distance outcrop. We had nice views through the scope before the bird flew off, I was pleased we had these views as this was the only time we saw this bird during the day. In the same area we saw more Black-eared Wheatears, lots of Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia), a soaring Goshawk (Azor Común / Accipitor gentillis), Crag Martin, Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), Blue-rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius) and a possible male Spanish Sparrow (Gorrión Moruno / Passer hispaniolensis) but this interesting bird disappeared before I got the scope on it.
We continued on around the track passed the Goat cave and on passed the twin rocks and down in to the next valley where we found Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus), Sardinian Warbler (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Rock Pigeon (Paloma Bravia / Columba livia), Northern Wheatear (Collalba Gris / Oenanthe oenanthe), Iberian Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis), Whinchat (Tarabilla Nortena / Saxicola rubetra) and European Bee-eater (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster). We stopped by the Goat Cave and the ladies took some shots from inside and I went and checked a nearby rock for Erodium cheilanthifolium and managed to find a small plant with one flower open. Once the photographs were taken we went back around to the Charca and had some lunch before dropping slowly back down the hill, on the way we met John and Jenny Wainwright who said that the Eagle Owl was showing so we returned to the small quarry. Once out of the vehicle we scanned the cliffs but could not find the bird so we checked the gorse clad slopes where we discovered Man (Orchis anthropophora), Mirror (Espejo de Venus / Ophrys speculum subsp speculum), Yellow Bee  (Orquídea Abejera / Ophrys lutea), Sawfly (Flor de avispa / Ophrys tenthredinifera) and a Conical Orchid (Neotinea conica). There were also good numbers of Southern Wild Tulip (Tulipa sylvestris ssp. australis), Common Stork's-bill (Erodium cicutarium), Tassel Hyacinth (Muscari comosum), Southern Knapweed (Centaurea pullata ssp pullata), Mediterranean Catchfly (Silene colorata), Moroccan Orange-tip (Anthocharis belia), Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta), Southern Blue (Polyommatus celina), Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera), Clouded Yellow (Colias Común / Colias corcea) and a Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica). On our way back to the vehicle we heard Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), Red-rumped (Golondrina Dáurica / Hirudo daurica) and Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica), House Martin (Avión Común / Delichon urbica) and then back at the van we had very nice views of the Eagle Owl as it sat out in the afternoon sun. We had intended to go on to another site but we had had such a good time on the hill the day had flown by and as we were heading out to a star gazing nigt later we headed back to the houses. Later we made our way out in to the campo near to Trabuco to Liz Marshes very nice house and had a chilly followed by  a short talks and then some star gazing.

Photographs from the top: The Ladies on the lower slopes, Male Black-eared Wheatear (Collalba Rubia / Oenanthe hispanica), Female Black-eared, Common Stork's-bill (Erodium cicutarium), Southern Early Purple Orchid (ChupaerosAndrorchis Olbiensis), Viola dementria, Goat herders house, Twin stacks, Erodium cheilanthifolium, Sue and Jane near the Goat Cave, Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Southern Wild Tulip (Tulipa sylvestris ssp. australis), Eagle Owl (Buho Real / Bubo bubo) and Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica).

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