Friday, 19 April 2013

Tuesday birding in El Chorro and Sierra Loja


No chance for me to finally relay what I am up to as both John and Jenny Wainwright plus Ivan and Inger Zink-Nielson seem Io be having the birding time of their lives!  However, I was up at the Sierra Loja on Wednesday with the Andalucia Bird Society and yesterday, Thursday, my little ad hoc Axarquia Bird Group made the big journey up to Las Norias in Almeria Province for some great birding - and in great company.  More about these later.

Meanwhile the fact that Ivan and Inger do not have a car whilst out here in southern Spain has certainly not hampered their travel as can be seen from below:

Tuesday 16 April

We went by train from Fuengirola via Malaga Maria Zambrano  to El Chorro. The train timetable gave us 7 hours for birding (except the time spent eating, having a beer and a cup of coffee).
The day started with  a walk from the station, along the river passing the camping site and the arch following the path to the view to Los Gaitanes and upwards and down on the other side of the hill. Then across the river and turning right following the river's other side, following the road when it turned left and proceeded until we reached a Church and a bar, where we had our (late) lunch.

We had hoped for some raptors besides the expected Griffon Vultures and Kestrels, but we didn't succeed.  We enjoyed the Alpine Swifts and the Choughs.  Although the day's list with only 28 species was a little disappointing, we think that the site is of interest.

Birds seen by Ivan and Inger:
Griffon Vulture; Kestrel; Rock Dove; Wood Pigeon; Collared Dove; Swift; Alpine Swift; Great Spotted Woodpecker; Crag Martin; Barn Swallow; Red-rumped Swallow; House Martin; White Wagtail; Grey Wagtail; Nightingale; Blue Rock Thrush; Sardinian Warbler; Cetti's Warbler; Wren; Coal Tit;  Short-toed Treecreper; Chough; Spotless Starling; House Sparrow; Chaffinch; Goldfinch; Greenfinch; Serin.

Inger and Ivan

No gathering of Griffon Vultures a the gorge; can this mean that the birds are finding sufficient food in the wild - or you arrived at the wrong time?  The nearby railway was featured in the making of "Von Ryans' Express" starring Trevor Howard and Frank Sinatra as escaping prisoners of war from Italy out-running the following German train as they rushed for the Swiss border.  If you have seen the film you will recognise many of the tunnels and the blowing up at the end of the King's Walk (Paseo del Rey).

Email received immediately from Ivan and my apologies for misinterpreting the comment  beginning,
 "We had hope for more raptors.... " .  I wrongly interpreted this to mean that you did not see many Griffon Vultures whereas, of course, the opposite was the case.  Well, it helps to keep on my toes and keep the dreaded dementia away!!!


Meanwhile, a day ahead of me, John and Jenny Wainwright were up on top of the Sierra Loja seeking out the newly-arrive Rock Thrushes and seeing the resident Eagle Owl.  They even managed to find a female Common Redstart sharing territory with the Rock Thrush.


Sierra Loja: 16th April

A very hot day 37C/ 95F up top and no wind. Our friends staying with us asked if I would take them up the mountains today; no sooner said than done!  We drove directly to the cliff area but that was chocker-block with climbers so we headed for the Charca de Negra.  On the way we saw Spotless Starlings, Black-eared Wheatears, Black Redstarts, Chough, Jackdaws and a fewStonechats.

At the ponds a large flock of Common Swifts flew in an extended line through the pass between the two cliff faces. Linnets were in good numbers as were Black-eared Wheatears again.  On towards the fossil cave where we found Northern Wheatear, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Sparrow, Rock Buntings, Crag Martin and a Black Redstart.

Rock Thrush  Monticola saxatillis (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
 Another km past the caves and Jenny located not one but three Rock Thrushes - one of these bird flew up to the cliff-top and started displaying but was chased off by a Blue Rock Thrush doing the same thing.  We lost sight of the former birds from then on.  Also here was another Black Wheatear, two Hoopoes and, in a group of small bushes, a Wren was heard. 

Blue Rock Thrush  Monticola solitarius (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

On the return journey we located three Little Owls in the sub-station valley and two Ocellated Lizards.  A few Red-legged Partridges were seen as well as Corn Buntings a Woodchat Shrike, Linnets and more Rock Buntings.

Eagle Owl  Bubo bubo (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
We called into the hidden quarry and there it was, large as life, the Eagle Owl - this was being dive bombed by a Common Kestrel - which I think has a nest site below the great bird.  Also here were Crag Martins, Stonechats,Sardinian Warblers, Blackbirds, Serins, Coal and Great Tits, a Nuthatch and, although we never saw them, a few Bee-eaters were over the tree tops.  Collared Doves, Chaffinches, Wood Pigeons were last but not least as we left the area. 


Great sightings, John.  Isn't it amazing that you go on successive days and see a different selection of birds.  The following day we had a marvellous selection but no tits, nevermind Nuthatches, Hoopoes and Linnets!


Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.

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