Sunday 14 May 2017

Sierra de Loja and Moraleda Fields, Granada Province.

Granada Wildlifes Tour of Eastern Andalucia and beyond.
Day Two of Eleven, A day in the hills and on the fields.

Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae).
I met the group at the hotel and we had a look in a small area of Olive trees where Nick had seen a warbler species briefly on a walk earlier, once there we soon located a very vocal Melodious Warbler (Zarcero Común / Hippolais polyglotta) along with Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica), Crested Lark (Cogujada / Galerida cristata), House Sparrow (Gorrión Común / Passer domesticus), Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis), Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto), Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina) and Serin (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus).
Sawfly Orchid (Ophrys ficalhoana).
We then all jumped into the van and headed along the motorway to Sierra de Loja where we made our first stop on the track up to the lower quarry, once we were parked we checked the gorse covered slopes and found a singing Dartford Warbler (Curruca Rabilarga / Sylvia undata), Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata), Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia) and Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros) as well as Iberian  Magpie (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cooki), Woodpigeon (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus), Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus), Blackbird (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula), Barn (Golondrina Común / Hirundo rustica) and Red-rumped Swallows (Golondrina Dáurica / Hirudo daurica), Crag (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris) and House Martins (Avión Común / Delichon urbica). 
Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia).
Along the track we also saw Tassel Hyacinth (Muscari comosum), Wild Gladiolus (Gladiolus illyricus), White Mignonette (Reseda Alba), Rabbits bread (Andryala integrifolia), Navel-wort (Omphalodes commutata), Rosy garlic (Allium roseum), Rabbit (Conejo / Oryctolagus cuniculus) and Carpentor Bee (Xylocopa violacea).
We moved on up the crags adding Alpine (Vencejo Real / Apus melba) and Pallid Swift (Vencejo Pálido /Apus pallidus), Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae), Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura), Jackdaw (Grajilla / Corvus monedula) and Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulgar / Falco tinnunculus) on the way.
Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush (Roquero Roja / Monticola saxatilis).
Once we were up on the tops we made our way across to the furthest point of the hill, on the way we made a couple of stops and found Black-eared Wheatear (Collalba Rubia / Oenanthe hispanica), Blue-rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius), Common Swift (Vencejo Común / Apus apus), European Bee-eater (Abejaruco Común / Merops apiaster), Hoopoe (Abubilla / Upupa epops), Clouded Yellow (Colias corcea), Bath White (Pontia daplidice), Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalia), Andalusian Storksbill (Erodium recorderi), Chickweed (Cerastium boissieri), Corn Poppy (Papaver rhoeas), Purple Bugloss (Echium plantagineum), Upland Peony (Paeonia coriacea), Viola dementria and Yellow Phlomis (Phlomis lychnitis).
Erodium cheilanthifolium,
Once we were out at the point where we were going to turn around we came across a spike of Sawfly Orchid (Ophrys ficalhoana) just as friend Kevin Wade and another birder Ricky Owen from Cadiz Province arrived. In the same area we had Common Asphodel (Asphodelus albus), Blue Hedgehog Broom (Erinacea anthyllis), Great Mullein (Verbascum giganteum), Pitch Trefoil (Psoralea bituminosa), Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum), Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa), Iberian Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis), Linnet (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina) and two Little Owls (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua).
Viola dementria.
We turned around and headed back towards the upper crags, parked and had a walk. During this walk we had god views of Subalpine (Curruca Carrasquena / Sylvia cantillans) and Western Orphean Warblers (Curruca Mirlano / Sylvia hortensis), Rock Pigeon (Paloma Bravia / Columba livia), Mallard (Anade Azulón / Anas platyrhynchos) on the pools below us, Woodchat Shrike (Alcaudón Común / Lanius senator), Common Cuckoo (Cuco Común / Cuculus canorus) but only heard, Griffon Vulture (Bultre Leonado / Gyps fulvus), Rock Sparrow (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia), Wren (Chochin / Troglodytes troglodytes), Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor), Blue Tit (Herrerillo Común / Parus caeruleus), a stunning male Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush (Roquero Roja / Monticola saxatilis) and on several occasions we heard a Scop's Owl (Autillo Europeo / Otus scops).
Upland Peony (Paeonia coriacea).
A couple of very smart Cardinal Fritillaries (Argynnis pandora) were also see along with Iberian Marbled White (Melanargia lachesis), Spanish Festoon (Zerynthia rumina), Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas), a female Provence Orange-tip (Anthocharis euphenodes), Cleopatra (Gonepteryx cleopatra) and an Ocellated Lizard (Lacerta lepida) which dived for a rock pile as we approached.
Black-eared Wheatear (Collalba Rubia / Oenanthe hispanica).
We returned to the Van and started to make our way back down stopping few times on the way, the first was on a rocky area near to the goat cave where we searched for butterflies finding Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui), Small White (Pieris rapae), Knapweed Fritillary (Melitaea phoebe), Common / Southern Blue (Polyommatus icarus / celina) as well as Erodium cheilanthifolium, Bitting Stonecrop (Sedum acre), Blue lettuce (Lactuca tenerrima), Cliffhanger (Chaenorhinum villosum), Common Grape Hyacinth (Muscari neglectum), Common Snapdragon (Antirrhinum major), Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima) and Ptilotrichum spinosum.
The next stop was by Charca Negra where we saw several Sharp-ribbed Salamander (Pleurodeles waltl) surface for air and a fine male Blue / Common Emperor (Anax imperator) which cruised up and down continuously and a Large Psammodromus (Lagartija colilarga / Psammodromus algirus).
Thekla Lark (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae).
We caught up with Kevin and Ricky who put us on to a pair of Spectacled Warblers (Curruca Tomillera / Sylvia conspicillata) that they had been photographing, we had good views of both birds before dropping back down to the track to the quarry were we stopped in the pines at the start and picked up Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla), Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs) and Bonelli's Warbler (Mosquitero Papialbo / Phylloscopus bonelli). We went to the top of the track just to check if the Eagle Owls (Buho Real / Bubo bubo) were showing but sadly there was no sign of them but we did see Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera) and Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) before we dropped down to the motorway and headed for lunch.
Small White (Pieris rapae).
Once lunch was over we moved out to a different habitat which was mainly made up of Almond and Olive groves and then later larger cereal fields, we struggled to find many species but eventually Judy picked up three Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Ganga Ortega / Pterocles orientalis) just before they flushed and we had both Swallowtail (Papilio machaon) and Iberian Scarce Swallowtail (Iphiclides feisthameli) flying through the Almonds. We moved out on to the fields were we spent quite a while trying to track down a calling Little Bustard (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax) but it remained out of sight, however the group added Short-toed Lark (Terrera Común / Calandrella brachydactyla), Turtle Dove (Tórtola Europea / Streptopelia turtur), Zitting Cisticola (Buitrón / Cisticola juncidis) and Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra) and as I walked back to the van during the Bustard search to lock it as we were heading ot of view I had an unexpected Ringed Plover (Chorlitejo Grande / Charadrius hiaticula) fly up from the stubble and an immature Great Spotted Cuckoo (Crialo Europeo / Clamator gladarius) fly in to a nearby Almond tree. We moved of the site and made our way back to Huétor Tajar and to the hotel.

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