Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Sierra de Loja and Huétor Tajar, Granada Province.

A day with 19 members from the Andalucian Bird Society.


I met Bob, Derek and Barbara, Jerry and Barbara, Christine and Paul, Elaine, Claudia, Ron, Maureen and John, Lindsay and Liz, Bob and Noreen, Peter and Helen and Mick at the Abades service area just off the A92 on the motorway heading towards Granada where we had a large flock of 77 Iberian / Azure-winged Magpies (Rabilargo / Cyanopica cyanus) fly over the car park before the meeting started. Right on time we set off up the hill and made a brief stop at a pull in amongst the pines, as we got out of the cars I could hear a Short-toed Treecreeper (Agateador Común / Certhia brachydactyla) but we could not find it, we did however see Greenfinch (Verderón Común / Carduelis chloris) and Common Chaffinch (Pinzón Vulgar / Fringilla coelebs), a small covey Red-legged Partridge (Perdiz Roja / Alectoris rufa) which few through the trees, a tacking Robin (Petirrojo Europeo / Erithacus rubecula), 40+ Woodpigeons (Paloma Torcaz / Columba palumbus) and a pair of Sardinian Warblers (Curruca Cabecinegra / Sylvia melanocephala) which crossed the track and showed well in a dead bush.
From this point we drove straight over to the far side of the site and parked just above the first of the Hawthorn bushes and walked south along the track where we soon picked up the first of 40 to 50 Ring Ouzels (Mirlo Capiblanco / Turdus torquatus) some from both the Northern European and Pyrenean races. 
Along the crags above the track we had several Crag Martins (Avión Roquero / Ptyonoprogne rupestris) which were feeding in very close to the cliff faces at high speed and lower down on the rocks below there were both male and female Black Redstart (Colirrojo Tizón / Phoenicurus ochruros), lots of Blackbirds (Mirlo Común / Turdus merula) which were also taking advantage , Common Stonechat (Tarabilla Común / Saxicola torquata) and Spotless Starling (Estornino Negro / Sturnus unicolor).
We dropped to bottom of the first gulley with crags on the left and a wide open upland meadow on the left, here we saw the first of a good number of Thekla Larks (Cogujada Montesina / Galerida theklae) one of which sat on a roadside rock for quite a while giving us time for good views. We also picked up a Corn Bunting (Triguero / Emberiza calandra), both male and female Black Wheatear (Collalba Negra / Oenanthe leucura), a male Blue-rock Thrush (Roquero Solitario / Monticola solitarius) which sat amongst the Ring Ouzels on a lager rocky outcrop, Little Owl (Mochuelo Europeo / Athene noctua) and a couple of groups of Linnets (Pardillo Común / Carduelis cannabina) calling as they past over head.
The drivers walked back to the cars and then met the rest of the group slightly further along the track and the we all continued on foot again. All the time we were seeing more and more Ring Ouzels but as we reached the next area of Hawthorns I heard the call I had been hoping for, it came from a Fieldfare (Zorzal Real / Turdus pilaris) as it flushed off along with several Ringed Ouzels as we approached. I had bad views of the bird along with a couple of others in the group but others had a better veiw later as it sat briefly in a bush.
At the far end of this walk we scanned the cliffs and Derek eventually picked up a couple of very distant Alpine Accentors (Acentor Alpino / Prunella collaris) as they collected water from the leaking cracks in the cliffs.
Next a group of Red-billed Choughs (Chova Piquirroja / Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax) came in over a nearby ridge and whilst watching these Elaine had brief views of an immature Golden Eagle (Águila Real / Aquila chrysaetos) before it dropped out of sight over the ridge. In the same area we had a couple of Rock Sparrows (Gorrión Chillón / Petronia petronia) which were also drinking from cracks in the rocks, several Jackdaws (Grajilla / Corvus monedula) soaring in amongst the Red-billed Choughs and as we walked back towards the cars we watched Goldfinch (Jilguero / Carduelis carduelis) feeding on the dead thistle heads along the side the track, two or three Redwings (Zorzal Alirrojo / Turdus illacus) and several Song Thrushes (Zorzal Común / Turdus philomelos) were in the tops of the Hawthorns, a single Mistle Thrush (Zorzal Charlo / Turdus viscivorus) which flew away up towards the top of the ridge, a Sparrowhawk (Gavilán Común / Accipiter nisus) which was being mobbed by several Crag Martins and a male Spanish Ibex (Cabra montés / Cabra pyreaica) which ran across the fields below us. 
Once we reached the cars again we started to drive back down the hill but stopped briefly at the pools at Charca del Negro picking up Meadow Pipit (Bisbita Pratense / Anthus pratensis) and Rock Bunting (Escribano Montesino / Emberiza cia).
Further down the hill we had an Iberian / Southern Grey Shrike (Alcaudón Real Meridional / Lanius meridionalis) sat on rusty fence post and rocks near the substation, a female Northern Wheatear (Collalba Gris / Oenanthe oenanthe) fly up and then perch on a small bush giving us some nice views, a Common Chiffchaff (Mosquitero Común / Phylloscopus collybita) which flew across the track and under the track fence and several Long-tailed Tit (Mito / Aegithalos caudatus) which crossed the road and moved through the roadside Pine trees.
Our last stop on the way down was at the end of the track to the lower disused quarry where we checked the crags but found nothing new.
We collected the cars that had been left at the bottom of the hill and headed towards the Cortijo de Tajar where some of the group (more than expected!!!) were having a menu del dia, the rest of the group headed out to a spot on the Northern side of the town where they had their food and the walked a track out into the fields. After rather a longer than wanted lunch break we regrouped after loosing almost 2 hours birding time on the track where Derek told me about a female Hen Harrier (Aguilucho Pálido / Circus cyaneus) and a Red Kite (Milano Real / Milvus milvus) they had seen whilst we were away (packed lunches for everyone next year!!!!).
As we walked the track to catch up with the others we had an African Grass Blue (Nina esmaltada / Zizeeia knysna), Bath White (Blanqiverdosa / Pontia daplidice) and several Small White (Pieris rapae). On the nearby chainlink fence we found good numbers of Serins (Verdecillo / Serinus serinus), House Sparrows (Gorrión Común / Passer domesticus), Goldfinches and a single Tree Sparrow (Gorrión Molinero / Passer montanus). A little further out on to the fields we scanned the ridges in the Asparagus, Garlic and other crop fields, we soon had the first of around a 100 or so Northern Lapwings (Avefria Europea / Vanellus vanellus) and when a couple of dog flushed everthing in the area we had great views of several hundred Stone Curlews (Alcaraván Común / Burhinus oedicnemus) in amongst the Northern Lapwings and some calling but unseen Golden Plovers (Chorlito Dorado Europeo / Pluvialis apricaria). On the far fields we heard and saw several Crested Larks (Cogujada / Galerida cristata), White Wagtail (Lavandera Blanca / Montacilla alba), Collared Dove (Tórtola Turca / Streptopelia decaocto) and Common Magpie (Urraca / Pica pica).
We returned to the cars and went around to another spot on the western side of the site where we soon had good views of a group of 30 Little Bustards (Sisón Común / Tetrax tetrax) which were soon joined by another 7 birds which flew in as we watched. The female Hen Harrier which had been seen earlier then put in another appearance and gave us good views before move across to the eastern side of the site. In the area we also saw several Skylark (Alondra Común / Alauda arvensis), a flying Cattle Egret (Garcilla Bueyera / Bubulcus ibis) and a female Common Kestrel (Cernicalo Vulgar / Falco tinnunculus). Unfortunatally  had to leave the group to there own devices just after 17:00 but hope everyone had a good day and enjoyed my local patch as much as I do.

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