Saturday, 15 August 2015

Sierra Loja AND Zapata's Guadalhorce

Friday 14 August

As I said only a few days ago, never mind the continuing heat wave as there are birds to be found and seen if you put your mind to it.  John and Jenny Wainwright proved a point with a visit to their local and favourite site, the Serra Loja and had no sooner completed their day when Derek and Barbara Etherton were off down to their favourite local site on the Guadalhorce at Zapata behind the local airport.  Not just birds to be seen but exciting species that make the journeys even more worthwhile. What is also interesting, is that both make a point to say what was not present so that you have a better feel for the day, Barn Owl in the case of Derek and Barbara and Eagle Owl with John and Jenny, but a timely reminder of what might be observable on a more fortunate day.

Sierra Loja 13th August

A warmish  25C, down below only, but a cool 19C up the Sierra.

Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
We started off from Salar about 7.45am and it was with a nice breeze that we gained the base to the
Sierra Loja´s.  Here we found a good flock of Crossbills and disturbed five Collared Doves that were
foraging on the main track.  A few Goldfinches about here and a couple of Blackbirds.  Going directly up to the hidden quarry, no Eagle Owl was seen, but we did get two Dartford Warblers, a Sardinian Warbler and yet more Goldfinches. Scanning the mountainside we located five Spanish Ibex, and the a Short-toed Eagle appeared above the "owls roost", followed by two Black Kites.

Moving up through the tree line, several Great Tits, Chaffinches were noted as well as a dark-phased
Red Squirrel, while at the cliff face, Stonechat, Rock Buntings, Chaffinches, a Wood Pigeon, Thekla Larks, two Chough (no Jackdaws at all today- which is very surprising as this is their main roost-site), a Black Wheatear, Common Kestrel and a juvenile Woodchat Shrike were logged.

Between here and the substation valley it was very quiet, but as we descended into the valley a large
 - very young - family of Red-legged Partridges scattered in all directions.  Here we picked up Southern Grey Shrike, our first of many Northern Wheatears and also lots of Black-eared Wheatears (in various stages of plumage),  A few more Rock Buntings and Thekla Larks were also noted.

Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

As we approached the ponds (Charca de Negra - which are both bone dry), Black-eared Wheatears
were everywhere, several Black Redstarts, Linnets another two Northern Wheatears and a sprinkling
of House Sparrows.  Moving round to the "fossil cave area", a large flock of Chough were feeding on the down slopes and our one and only Little Owl of the day was spotted here, in and amongst the rock piles.  A couple of dozen Spotless Starlings flew over and on the cliff face Rock Buntings and Linnets were seen.

Backtracking and then heading off in the direction of Salar, at the walnut grove we found a Hoopoe,
 Stonechats, more Blackbirds and Black Redstarts, the latter being  forever harassed by Black-eared
Wheatears.  The fir copse held more Hoopoes plus three Mistle Thrushes, Chaffinches, another Southern Grey Shrike and a female Sardinian Warbler.  Dropping down to the catchment area a Black Wheatear flew off at our approach, then a flock of some twenty two Bee-eaters came across the face of the mountain heading west,  House Martins and Barn Swallows were noted here as well. We had a cuppa  and a sandwich here before moving off, when a wasp landed on my hand, I though it had landed for a drink as my hands were wet, but it turned out he was after a chunk of skin from between my fingers.

Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)
Retracing our steps and scanning the area around the stone trough, a pair of Bonelli´s Eagles circled and gave us some great views and as they disappeared from sight a Short-toed Eagle came over from
the opposite direction.  A little further down four Griffon Vultures were spotted and a Short-toed Eagle (probably the same one as before) came over breaking up a party of Common Swifts, Barn and
Red-rumped Swallows and House Martins.  A couple of Crag Martins were seen on the downslopes
and to finish up a Spectacled Warbler and a family of Long-tailed Tits were seen and a Coal Tit was heard.

Bonelli's Eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

A few butterflies were seen today,ie: Small Copper, Striped Grayling, a Scarce Swallowtail and some
Small Whites.

Guadalhorce, Zapata and Rio Grande: Friday 14 August

Short-toed Lark Calandrella  brachydactyla (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
Now whilst John and Jenny were up the mountain on Wednesday, Derek and Barbara were off to their local and ever-poplar site down at the verdant area of Zapata checking out the Guadalhorce just behind the airport, on Thursday morning..  It never ceases to amaze me what they find here and when you visit you see beautiful green countryside as you look upstream with its wide bubbling brook (well perhaps not a brook!) you easily forget that you are just a couple of miles from Malaga town centre.

Yet another Red-necked Nightjar Caprimulgus ruficollis caught in the headligjhts (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
As usual, no hanging around in bed of a morning for D & B as they are up with the lark (actually on site before the lark is up!) but, unfortunately, no Barn Owl again although lots of Red-necked Nightjars and all the usual water birds including Little Bittern and Night Heron.  This is also a a great place for seeing Short-toed Larks and having seen the fly-past by the extended Black Kite squadron it was breakfast and the short hop up to the Rio Grande to complete their birding morning and a final tally of 57 species including Purple Heron and Short-toed Eagle.

Purple Heron Ardea purpurea (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)

All this positive birding and me just about recovered, test results  due back next week when I have the return visit to the Doc and hope the outcome will not be that I have had a serious dose of Gastro-entritis, as got me dreaming of birds, birds and more birds.  But where to go?  me thinks I might have a wander up to the Arroyo Marin next Wednesday and then play it by ear.

Short-toed Eagle Circaetus gallicus (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
As always, very many thanks to both John and Derek for sending me their reports and photos so that I can enjoy them along with readers of the blog.

Black Kites Milvus migrans on their way south (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)
Grey Heron Ardea cinerea (PHOTO: Derek Etherton)

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

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