Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Ventas de Zafarraya & El Robledal

Wednesday 18 March

Not often, very rare in fact, that the monthly field meeting of the Axarquia Bird Group falls on a wet day but today was one of those days.  Very cloudy with continuous light drizzle and a bitingly cold wind up at the Ventas de Zafarrya as six hardy souls or brave idiots, not sure which is the more apt description, met up for the March field visit.  needless to stay we did not stay that long and were soon back our cars so that we could make the relatively short trip up to El Robledal where at least it was mainly dry, but still damp, and out of the wind.  Good to see David Jefferson and birding friend Paul Coulthard from Torrox along with Eric Lyon from Sayalonga plus John and Jenny Wainwright from Salar and fresh back from their birding adventure down in the Donana.  For John and Jenny, what a difference a week makes in term of weather change!

Nuthatch Trepador Azul Sitta europaea (PHOTO: David Jefferson)
As we all donned as much wet weather clothing as we could muster, a couple of Ravens were noted above the peak on the opposite side of the road and a pair of Rock Buntings were foraging around near the railway terminus.  The occasional Chough put in an appearance, as they did for the next forty minutes or so, and we set off towards the tunnel with a pair of Linnet passing overhead and picking up Great Tit, Wren and our only Blue Rock Thrush.  Once through the tunnel we did not walk too far before heading back but also managed to find a single Crag Martin followed by a female Black Redstart, Blackbird and Stonechat and David managed to see the only Black Wheatear of the morning.

Approaching El Robledal John and Jenny had a pair of Buzzards and the first Jay of the morning was noted when a pair disappeared into the trees on the left.  The dominant species of the woods seemed to be Blue Tit, of which there were many and seen by all, Mistle Thrush and Nuthatches. A Crested Lark was recorded during the main journey and, once off the main road, we also managed to fins a Thekla Lark resting at the top of a small tree along with a single Serin.  Indeed, we saw a number of individual Serins but only one Goldfinch sighting when a cloud, I can hardly call it a charm, of about 200 individuals crossed immediately in front of the car at roof-top level as a large lorry approached.

Jay Arrendajo Garrulus glandarius (PHOTO: David Jefferson)
Regular stop s as we approached the picnic area park produced Short-toed Treecreeper, Nuthatches and Blue Tits along with a number of Great Tits.  Eric managed to locate both Coal Tit and Wood Lark and there were a good number of Mistle Thrushes.

Long-tailed Tit Mito Aegithalos caudatus (PHOTO: David Jefferson)
A lovely sighting of a Robin was followed by that of a Jay which seemed to pose forever and then we had both a pair of Long-tailed Tits and a small flock of Wood Pigeons and a Firecrest.   A single pair of White Wagtails observed and strange Spotless Starlings acting like "woodpeckers" was amusing to watch and we all heard Green Woodpeckers and estimated that there were at least three present in the immediate vicinity.  Towards the end we (finally) also heard Great Spotted Woodpecker to add to the brief call of a Peregrine Falcon whilst walking to the tunnel on the old railway track at Ventas de Zafarraya.  needles to say there were regular Chaffinch sightings.  Just the one mystery bird in our final count of 38 potential species when a large raptor drifted away from us, high and distant.

Distant Short-toed Eagle Culebrera Europea Circaetus gallicus (PHOTO: David Jefferson)
This was a large bird with upturned primaries ruling out Buzzard and in what appeared to be a major moult.  The tail looked straight across the end, almost triangular, and with curved edges we could also rule out eagles. My gut feeling was Griffon Vulture but there was "too much tail" so I suspect it was a returning Short-toed Eagle.  No doubt when/if we get to see some record shots that were taken we will be able to either confirm or amend - I hope!

Bonneli's Eagle Aguila-azor Perdicera Hieraaetus fasciatus (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

Meanwhile, having already recorded Lesser Kestrel and Barn Swallows on the way to the meeting point, John and Jenny also managed to see a small flock of five Lesser Kestrels and both Southern Grey Shrike and a Bonelli's Eagle on the way home, both photographed by Jenny.  And even the weather had turned sunny so helping with the photographs.
Southern Grey Shrike Alcaudon Real Lanius meridionalis (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
Whilst all this was going on, Paul and David managed to locate both the Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker as they made their way back from the El Robledal parking area to the main track and also, for good measure, even heard a Common Cuckoo calling.  Heard did I say?  No sooner back on the main road and driving towards Ventas de Zafarraya and they actually saw another individual on the wires at the side of the road.  And to cap it all, not only did they see the resident Peregrine Falcon but they also managed to record an Osprey drifting over the pass!  Some people seem to have all the luck.

Great company and just a shame that, on this occasion, the weather let us down and restricted the number of species that we might have observed.  Illustrations depend upon whether or not anybody managed to capture same during the morning.

Birds seen:
Osprey, Short-toed Eagle, Buzzard, Peregrine Falcon, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Common Cuckoo, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Wood Lark, Crag Martin, White Wagtail, Wren, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Firecrest, Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper, Jay, Chough, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Rock Bunting.

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


  1. Hi, that raptor on the pylon is in fact a juv Goshawk.
    [Bonelli's eagle does not have multiple tail bars in any plumage.]
    Nice shot!

  2. You also managed to photograph the Osprey !

    It's the overhead raptor identified as a Short-Toed eagle.