Thursday, 7 April 2016

Huetor Fields and Sierra de Loja, Granada Province.

A quick look at the fields and the a day in the hills.
With Martin and Harry Lavelle.

I set off for a days birding in the Sierra de Loja but went a bit early so I checked the fields along the Arroyo Vilano on the way up to the Cortijo de Tajar hotel by the A92. Just behind the bar I checked the slow flowing river and found Yellow Wagtail (Lavandera Boyera / Motacilla flava iberiae), Zitting Cisticola (Buitrón / Cisticola juncidis), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinulas chloropus), Crested Lark (Cogujada / Galerida cristata), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra) and a little further along by the Poplar trees Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), a singing Nightingale (Ruisenor Común / Luscinia megarhynchos) which was my first for the year and took the total along to 236. I continued on along to the Mesia road ditches and added Iberian / Azure-winged Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Common Buzzard (Busardo Ratonero / Buteo buteo), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina), House Martin (Avión Común / Delichon urbica), Barn Swallow (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto), House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer domesticus) and Cetti's Warbler (Ruisenor Bastardo / Cettia cetti).
I then drove up to the hotel and had a coffee before meeting Martin and Harry out on the car park and heading down to Loja and up the low track from the town to the Sierra, just before the Motorway bridge we made our first stop to have a look at a couple of Orchid species. On the roadside bank we found plenty of Yellow Bee Orchid (Orquídea Abejera / Ophrys lutea) as well as a few of both Sawfly (Flor de avispa / Ophrys tenthredinifera subsp tenthredinifera) and Mirror Orchids (Ophrys speculum subsp speculum) and on the motorway embankment several past their best Giant Orchid (Himantoglossum robertiana). Birds included Harry's first lst lifer of quite a few for the day a Crested Tit (Herrerillo Capuchino / Parus cristatus), as well as Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), Bonelli's Warbler (Mosquitero Papialbo / Phylloscopus bonelli), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs) and more Spotless Starlings.
We continued on up the hill and parked at the turning circle a couple of KMs along the track and then walked up to the small disused quarry, on the way to the parking spot Harry asked if we had a chance of seeing any Iberian Magpies in the area and just as I said we should the first bird of a small flock flew into view, if only it happened like that every time!!!!
On the walk to the quarry we saw Eruca (Eruca sativa), Field marigold (Calendula arvensis), Ground-pine Germander (Teucrium pseudochamaepitys), Mallow-leaved Bindweed (Convolvulus althaeoides), Mediterranean Catchfly (Silene colorata), Pitch Trefoil (Psoralea bituminosa), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum), Southern Daisy (Bellis cordifolia), Southern Knapweed (Centaurea pullata ssp pullata), Tassel Hyacinth (Muscari comosum), Viola dementria and Andalusian Storksbill (Erodium recorderi). Birds included Firecrest (Reyezuelo Listado / Regulus ignicapillus), Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla), Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia),Woodpigeon, Crag Martin (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris) and Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa). In the quarry we had a pair of Black Wheatears (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura), a male Blue-rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius), Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros) and some Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula) up on the crags.
We walked back down towards the car adding Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Coal Tit (Carbonero Garrapinos / Parus ater) and a very nice male Common Crossbill (Piquituerto Común / Loxia curvirostra) which showed very well. We drove up along the crags and out on to the flats heading for the pools at Charca del Negro but made a couple of stops on the way seeing Great Tit (Carbonera Común / Parus major), Alpine Swift (Vencejo Real / Apus melba), Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Tawny Pipit (Bisbita campestre / Anthus campestris), Black-eared (Collalba Rubia / Oenanthe hispanica) and Northern Wheatears (Collalba Gris / Oenanthe oenanthe), Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia), Red-billed Chough (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) and Red-rumped Swallow (Golondrina Dáurica / Hirudo daurica).
As soon as we arrived at Charca Martin picked up a very smart male Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush (Roquero Roja / Monticola saxatilis) and as we walked around the pool Harry picked up a surprising Great Spotted Cuckoo (Crialo Europeo / Clamator gladarius) and a few minutes later we had a calling Common Cuckoo (Cuco Común / Cuculus canorus). In the pool we saw Sharp-ribbed Salamander (Pleurodeles waltl) but little else. On the nearby crags we could hear and see calling Rock Sparrows, Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, Black Redstarts and some spikes of the beautiful Narcissus bugei. We continued on around to the further crags where we checked the rocks and found another Blue Rock Thrush, a female Subalpine Warbler (Curruca Carrasquena / Sylvia cantillans), Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes), Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator) and a calling Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops) anda  hidden Scop's Owl (Autillo Europeo / Otus scops) which we did not see but a group of birders from the ABS jammed in on it in one of the Hawthorn trees. 
We returned to the car and started to drop back down the hill seeing a cracking male Montagu's Harrier (Aguilucho Cenizo / Circus pygargus), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina), Meadow Pipit (Bisbita Pratense / Anthus pratensis) and Robin (Petirrojo Europeo / Erithacus rubecula). We stopped at an area of broom scrub on the way down but turned up nothing so we continued on to the trees down by the crags and had a superb few minutes picking up Sardinian (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala), Spectacled (Curruca Tomillera / Sylvia conspicillata) and Dartford Warblers (Curruca Rabilarga / Sylvia undata), Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulgar / Falco tinnunculus), Common Swift (Vencejo Común / Apus apus), Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus) and more Red-billed Choughs. Our last stop on the hill was back up at the quarry but on the way down we had a nice Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) come across the road. Near the quarry we were hoping to connect with the resident Eagle Owl (Buho Real / Bubo bubo) but had to make do with a female Orphean Warbler (Curruca Mirlano / Sylvia hortensis) and some passing European Bee-eaters (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster).
We dropped down off the hill into Loja where we called in at El Cerro bar and Harry made quick work of a Lomo Completo baguette, Martin and I eventually caught up and we headed out to the fields near Huétor Tajar where we boosted the list with views of Green Sandpiper (Andarrios Grande / Tringa ochropus), Little Ringed Plover (Chorlitejo Chico / Charadrius dubius), Yellow Wagtail (Lavandera Boyera / Motacilla flava iberiae), Crested Lark, Short-toed Lark (Terrera Común / Calandrella brachydactyla), Common Moorhen (Gallineta Común / Gallinulas chloropus), Cattle Egret (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis), Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra) and Zitting Cisticola (Buitrón / Cisticola juncidis). I returned Martin and Harry to the hotel and headed home.

Photographs from the top: 2x Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush (Roquero Roja / Monticola saxatilis), View of Sierra de Loja, 2x Black-eared Wheatear (Collalba Rubia / Oenanthe hispanica), Martin and Harry watching a Woodchat Shrike, Narcissus bugei and Another view of the Sierra.

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