Saturday, 3 January 2015

Sierra Loja

Friday 2 January

Day two of the year and out again whilst jenny is off to lunch with her lady friends.  But I shall have a rest tomorrow , Saturday, before off to the Charca on Sunday.  Come the evening I will be able to say that I have been birding every day of the year save one!

With my cold just about cleared up and the temperature registering 11C I set of for the Sierra Loja in the hope that there might still be a Ring Ouzel or two about; best to record it now rather than chase it in twelve months time!  There certainly was but in much smaller numbers than my last visit which was not unsurprising given that just bout every berry seems to have been eaten.  But, try as I might, I could not find any other thrush other than a number of Blackbirds.  Were the Redwings and Fieldfares still about and where was my wintering Song Thrush or even a Mistle Thrush?  Even more worrying as I reached Ventas de Zafarrya for the country road over to the motorway at Loja, the temperature had dipped to zero and continued on down to minus two.  But, as last month, as soon as I started to climb the mountain increased the temperature until it became a rather pleasant 14C on the top!

One of many Stonechats Tarabilla Comun Saxicola torquatus

Leaving the mountain here it was apparent that this must be a welcoming wintering spot for White wagtails judging by the huge number seen or, perhaps, the have just had a very good breeding season and have all come down here to let me know. In addition, both Rock and Collared Dove soon recorded and even a pair of Hoopoes on the roadside wires as I passed through Puente don Manuel. Driving on through the mountains after Zafarraya I soon added a good number of Blackbirds along with many Chaffinches and even the first Azure-winged Magpies of the day.  A Great Tit put in a brief appearance as it dashed across the road and the same could be said for the occasional Spotless Starling.  It was also rather lovely to see a single Southern Grey Shrike posing in the early morning sun.

Naturally, as I started up the mountain track near the service station at Loja there were a good number of House Sparrows and also more Chaffinches.  Add on an early male Black Redstart, far more were to be seen whilst on the mountain, to the Goldfinches and Serins and I was expecting to see a good turn out of species.  However, it proved the opposite for other than a few Black Redstarts and the occasional Thekla Lark all seemed very quiet.  Even the Charco del Negro was deserted with its frozen ponds, possibly the reason why.  But all was not lost as I finally found a small covey of Red-legged Partridge and, having found one, started seeing them for the rest of the day.

And the Red-legged Partridges Perdiz Roja Alectoris rufa just kept on coming
Next a first Stonechat, and again many more seen during the next couple of hours, as I headed off up passed the "Fossil cave" in search of the thrushes.  I think there must have been far fewer than a score of Ring Ouzels still present, and then only seen in odd pairs, but there were some very large flocks of both Corn Buntings and Meadow Pipits.  First a Blue Rock Thrush on the cliff top above me and then a Black Wheatear on a large boulder below the track.   A Kestrel drifted over before I continued to the berry-free bushes and back to the Charco del Negro to take the higher track to look for more thrushes.

With Rabbits Oryctolagus cuniculus sitting on rock tops no wonder there were no Buzzards about!
This track seemed relatively quite and only the occasional Blackbird but I did start picking up regular sightings of both Stonechat and Rock Bunting.  I drove past the main site with the intention of turning round at the track junction but on seeing the signpost to Salar decided, what the heck, I'll follow it and see where it leads.  A beautiful journey then followed as I gradually made my way down to lower levels and the introduction to different birds including a rather fine Southern Grey Shrike.  Lots of Rock Buntings and then the Chiffchaffs started to appear with yet more Serins and Goldfinches.

It was interesting to see the three (I think) marble quarries with their huge blocks cut out from the cliff face ans seemingly just abandoned as white cubes waiting for some overgrown Rubic to come along an invent a new game.  The second quarry produced a huge flock of Meadow Pipits and then almost as many Corn Buntings.  The neighbouring olive  groves had Chaffinches and Chiffchaffs but it was the five finches that move away form the road  with three resting at a nearby tree to my left which then revealed themselves as Cirl Buntings.  I thought that these might be the birds of the day but as I passed the third quarry, on my left (driver's side) a sudden movement caught my eye as a wintering Wryneck "hopped" up on to a large marble cube and took up the classic pose.  I know not who was the more surprised, me or the bird.  I slammed on my brakes to prevent running into the next cube or swinging the wheel and disappearing off the road on the other side of the track.  Backing u not only did not find the bird as I suspect he took off as soon as he got over the shock of seeing a vehicle right next to him.  Just think; John and jenny Wainwright live, probably, less than five kilometres away and yet had to drive all the way over to Osuna to see their wintering Wryneck.  On the other hand, at least it posed and they managed to actually get a photograph of the bird.

Quick record shot of the Southern Grey Shrike Alcaudon Real Lanius meridionalis
Rather in a dream after that little interlude so I continued on into Salar, contacted John to confirm that they were at home and called in for a very welcome cup of coffee and with them a personal Happy New Year's greeting.

Then it was time too head off home via the old ruined road that leads down to Ventas de Zafarraya, if you drive very slowly and carefully.  But, as John had just told me, the road has now been reinstated, or at least been levelled and made passable.  This is where I was able to record a number of (Common) Magpies plus find another large flock of Corn Buntings with a single Robin as an added bonus.  I even managed a single Sky Lark as well as Crested Larks on the "Calandra lark Field" to complete my day.  Not a great total but, my word, there were some rather lovely sightings with Ring Ouzel, Cirl Bunting and Wryneck!

Birds seen:
Red-legged Partridge, Kestrel, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Wryneck, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Sky Lark, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Ring Ouzel, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Southern Grey Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Goldfinch, Cirl Bunting, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting.

Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.


  1. Great blog - we are here holidaying for a week. Do you "pal up" with visiting birders ? I have a hire car and would be happy to pay fuel costs. Thanks Mark
    Email -

    1. I do but I may have no time this week unless you are free on Thursday and would like to visit the Rio Velez, Torre del Mar with me. Email