Thursday, 14 May 2015

Axarquia Bird Group visit to the Sierra Loja

Wednesday 13 May

Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica
Always a pleasure and delight to visit the Sierra Loja and today's visit by the Axarquia Bird Group was no exception.  Twelve of us at the start including a good contingent from west of Malaga city albeit we lost three when we came across another friend and member, Mick Richardson, leading a private birding visit.  A most enjoyable, and very warm with the temperature reaching 38 C on the top at 1550 metres, with some great bird sightings even if the main target, Rock Thrush, was short on the ground to say the least with just one sighting at lunch time whilst at the Charca del Negro pond.  Even more is the pity that the four who sought shelter under the cliff actually missed sighting!  Another disappointment was that the Eagle owl was either away from home or very deep in her cave to try and keep cool so no sighting today - but there is always a tomorrow in birding.

Yet another frustrating evening and day as I await further news on the house sale, albeit more hopeful now than yesterday, so many thanks to my dear friend John Wainwright for sending in his report of the day so I can basically copy and add.  Thanks John.

Now to John's report:

A very hot day (40C),thankfully there was a light breeze 

As all met up at the cafe/restaurant, the temperature was knocking on 35C, so it was just as well that most adjourned to the cafe for refreshment.  As we progressed up the track to Sierra Loja we spotted Mistle ThrushAzure-winged Magpies, Wood Pigeon, Collared Doves, Chaffinches and a Spotted Flycatcher was seen.
As we headed for the hidden quarry (our target bird being the Eagle Owl - which was a big dip) we saw Serins, Spotless Starlings, Spotted Flycatcher (a lot of searching for the last bird), Greenfinch and Goldfinch and  Short-toed Treecreeper.  A a couple of Ravens were noted as well as Great Tit and a Wren. The first Woodchat Shrike of the day flew past.

Just the one Rock Thrush Monticola saxatilis seen today
From the quarry we noticed Blue Rock Thrush - on the lower workings, Stonechat, two Common Kestrels and above them Crag and House Martins, Barn Swallows and Common Swifts along with a lone Alpine Swift seen by at least five of the group.  Also in the area were Rock Buntings, Stonechats, Black Redstarts, Red-legged Partridges and an Orphean Warbler was heard at first and then noted by a good number of the group - best views were had to the left of the fir copse in the small bushes/trees there - albeit rubbish photos!   Several Spanish Ibex were also here.

Moving on up to the cliff areas and more Jackdaws were seen as well as two Raven, Black-eared Wheatears (male and female), Rock Sparrows, Black Wheatears, Chough, two Hoopoes and a Spectacled Warbler singing.  This delightful warbler was eventually found and good views enjoyed by all. A pair of Hoopoes was also recorded.

The rather delightful Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata

The substation valley held little except a Little Owl in the centre of two trees, a few Chough feeding in the area and Thekla Larks.  As we climbed out of the valley high above the cliffs a Griffon Vutlure soared and the mountain sides were alive with Black-eared Wheatears.  Even a lone Crested Lark put in an appearance but no sign of any Corn Buntings today.

Distant Little Owl Athene noctua near the electricity substation
It was quite an uneventful up to the next stage of the journey  - to the Charca del Negro  - but here House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Black-eared Wheatear, Chough, Goldfinch, Linnets, Greenfinch and a very distant view of a male Rock Thrush, were logged.  Not as many as usual but no shortage of Red-legged Partridges on the mountain.

Moving on to the " fossil cave " area, apart from the two local horses, a few more Chough, more Rock Sparrows, a male Black Redstart, Greenfinch and a Black Wheatear were seen.  From here we turned back on our tracks and headed for the Sierra Gordo viewpoint.  On the way we stopped at the small fir plantation, where we noted  Mistle Thrush, Goldfinches, a distant Woodchat Shrike, Wood Pigeons, Great Tits, Black-eared Wheatear, Linnets, Chaffinches and the inimitable House Sparrows.

Evan female Black-eared Wheatears Oenanthe hispanica to be seen
Moving on to the viewpoint several Chough were seen and then Gerry spotted a large raptor, which was id´d as an immature Golden Eagle,and as we watched the eagle, four more Griffon Vultures were seen in the distance and a Common Kestrel was noted here also.  The return journey was more or less uneventful although we did locate the Spectacled Warbler again, more Black Wheatears and two Lesser Kestrels.

Lots of butterflies about today including Spanish Marbled White, Large White, Painted Lady, Red Admiral, Adonis Blue and a very pretty moth, the Clouded Buff Diacrisia sannio.

Quite a hard days birding overall, with a total yet to be determined by Bob.

Another look at the lovely Black-eared Wheatears Oenanthe hispanica

Leaving the site, I stopped close by on the way back to Ventas de Zafarraya to show Malcolm the traditional Montagu's Harrier site where we immediately saw a single male and two females.  Whilst watching these beautiful birds a single Turtle Dove flew into a nearby tree and, on departure, I managed to disturb a quartet plus a further pair a little way along the road followed by a couple of Corn Buntings.  Given the heat today, 44 species was not a bad result, especially when you consider the quality of the sightings.

(Mainly) John Wainwright

About to add some photographs and noticed that I had not loaded my EOS program up at Casa Collado so pictures will be added later when I get down to the coast and the new house, either later today or tomorrow.

Birds seen:
Red-legged Partridge, Golden Eagle, Griffon Vulture, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Wood Pigeon, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Alpine swift, Common Swift, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Wren, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black-eared Wheatear, Northern Wheatear, Black Wheatear, Rock Thrush, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Orphean Warbler, Spectacled Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Great Tit, Woodchat Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Chough, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting.

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

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