Thursday, 6 November 2014

Sierra Loja for the Ring Ouzels

Thursday 6 November

Following John and jenny wainwright's visit to the Sierra Loja yesterday, I set off just after nine this morning in the hope that I could replicate their observations.  Lots of birds on the way including the expected House Sparrows, Spotless Starlings and both Collared and Rock Doves - but no White Wagtails this morning as I drive down towards the lake from Los Romanes.  Again, nearing Loja I started to pick up both Serins and Corn Buntings and even had a resting Kestrel just beyond Venta del Rayo.  Good numbers of Azure-winged Magpies about and more as I entered the track to drive up the mountain itself.  The target was to find the Ring Ouzels in the limited time that I had at my disposal so not too fused about many stops on the way to the top.  However, the most common bird of the morning was the Goldfinch with numerous charms seen both before and all over the Sierra Loja.

Feeding Goldfinch Jilguero Cardueli carduelis

Nothing to see at the lower picnic quarry but the main quarry produced both a small number of Crag Martins and a delightful Dartford Warbler.  Driving through the trees I had very little to see as I seemed to be accompanied by first a quartet of mountain bikers and then the forestry workers thinning out the pines.

A very cold Meadow Pipit Bisbita Pratense Anthus pratensis

No sooner past the tree-line than I had first a Black Redstart closely followed by a pair of Meadow Pipits.  No jackdaws or Choughs seen but I did hear the latter when at the top.  Just the two Red-legged Partridges then I stopped to watch a pair of male Blue Rock Thrushes and a male Blackbird also decided to join the festivities.  About now I experienced the first of very many charms of Goldfinches seen during the next hour or so.  One tree held a large flock of Corn Buntings  and then, rounding the bend, I stopped o watch another Red-legged Partridge cross the track.  he/she was joined by another and then a third.  Before I knew what was happening I had counted ten individual and then, suddenly, the rest of the covey took off to fly over the track taking the others with them away down the slope.  I gave up after counting the first eighteen!

Three before the score plus Red-legged Partridges Perdiz Roja Alectoris rufa
Turning off to the right to pass the ponds on my way to find the target bird I cam across the first of the mushroom pickers.  They seemed to have arrived as family parties and during the next few kilometres or so I must have past or seen at least a dozen cars with their occupants similarly engaged.  And yet the whole time I was in their sight, both outward and on the return journey, I never saw one person bend down to actually gather a mushroom.  I t mad me think of the old Lonny Donnegan song, "They must all be toadstool as the're no mush rooms here!"

Distant female/juvenile Ring Ouzel Mirlo Capiblano Turdus torquatus
Eventually I arrived at the designated area for the hawthorn bushes and managed to see, probably, as many as a score of Ring Ouzels, mainly females and youngsters but the occasional male.  Unlike John yesterday, the birds were well-hidden in the bushes and only appeared for a few seconds as they fled away to lose themselves in a similar bush a little way off.  Very difficult to actually find a bird that could be photographed.  What to do?  Black Wheatears on the rocks below and both Rock Bunting and Rock Sparrow as I made my way back towards the ponds - where I found yet more mushroom pickers.  However, the predominant species was the resident Thekla Lark of which there seemed to be scores, they were all over the place.

Another distant Ring Ouzel Mirlo Capiblano Turdus torquatus plus the one that got away just as the camera clicked!

I then set off to the alternative valley as recommended by John and eventually found the scattered hawthorn trees and bushes, like the first site, well sourced with both red and black berries.  Again, at least a score of Ring Ouzels in the area but they, too, were not co-operative and refused to pose for photographs.  The Stonechat posed nicely and even a trio of Red-legged Partridges wandered by but the Ring Ouzels just dispersed as individuals as they flew away to more distant bushes whilst I ate my lunch.  How frustrating and I doubt whether I will now have another date in the near future to try again before the birds disperse.

Birds seen:
Red-legged Partridge, Kestrel, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Ring Ouzel, Blackbird, Dartford Warbler, Azure-winged Magpie, Chough, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting.

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