Monday, 23 May 2016

El Torcal

Saturday 21 May

A beautiful clear and sunny day for the May filed meeting of the Andalucia Bird Society which, today, was centred on the amazing rocks and dips that make up the very popular spot known as "El Torcal de Antequera Nature Reserve" and the surrounding Sierra de la Chimenea.  An enthusiastic party of twenty-nine members, many as fascinated by the rock formations as the birds seen, albeit six hardy souls from the group, or were they simply insomniacs, also set off on a short pre-visit tour at 6 am to checkout for calling Eagle Owls (not seen or heard) and the dawn chorus.

Wonderful El Torcal with an Ibex "perched" on top
With such a large number, the group split into two to cover the same trail but walking in opposite directions to complete the circuit.  Not a large number of birds seen but certainly good quality.  And all the while we were searching the rocks and crevises, scattered bushes and grassy banks there was a constant stream of Griffon Vultures soaring across the cliff tops along with House Martins, Barn Swallows and Common Swifts.  Indeed, the only other raptor seen was a lone Common Kestrel.

Of the smaller birds, most saw the relatively close views of both Melodious and Subalpine Warbler whilst others heard but many also saw the Bonelli's Warbler.  Nighingales were seen near to the Visitors Centre along with Serin, GoldfinchBlue Tit and House Sparrow but, perhaps, the most common species during the circuit was the Black Redstart.  They were always popping up here, there and everywhere. Just the occasional Blue Rock Thrush and only a single Black Wheatear recorded but it was, nevertheless, lovely to find a small flock of Rock Sparrows and close-by both
Rock Buntings and a Spotted Flycatcher.  Also recorded in the area were BlackbirdGreatTit,and Wren. The icing on the cake, for my group, was probably the Cirl Bunting near the end of the circuit.

More amazing scenery - the rocks that is!
In addition to the birds, we must have seen at least a dozen Ibex, mainly females and kids,either sleeping, resting on the narrowest of ledges or simply looking down on we mere mortals.  Either way, it was difficult to choose between watching these amazing animals with their incredible sense of balance or simply admire the views and amazing rock shapes.

Ibex Cabra montesa Capra pyrenaica with kid hiding behind the rock
Moving on from El Torcal we dropped down the mountain to circumnavigate the sierra and back to Villanueve de la Comcepcion, stopping for a welcome picnic on the way where many picked up the calling Cetti's Warbler.

Obviously, not all the birds were of the feathered variety!
Two stops at the back of the El Torcal range where the first produced Red-rumped Swallows, StonechatCrested Lark, Sardinian Warbler and, best of the day, a pair of Honey Buzzards which were, presumably, resting rather than breeding, on their northern return from Africa.  Lovely clear views of a very pale individual as it soared immediately overhead an both picked out with scopes when they came to rest at the top of a peak; but all managed to have a good view.

Moving on to our second stop on a track over the range, we had first another Kestrel then a variety of smaller birds including many Corn Buntings and Stonechats along with a pair of Melodious Warblers, Blackcap, more Goldfinches and Crested Lark.  One member managed to eventually find a Spectacled Warbler to accompany the Black-eared Wheatear also discovered late in the afternoon.

And then it was back to Villanueva de la Concepcion to collect our respective cars where necessary before setting of for home.  A lovely day in super company and a final total of 35 species recorded plus the Jackdaws that I saw approaching the meeting point.  Not a large total but some absolutely wonderful and amazing scenery which was just as enjoyable.

Birds seen;
Honey Buzzard, Griffon Vulture, Kestrel, Collared Dove, Common Swift, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black-eared Wheatear, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Cetti's Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Spectacled Warbler, Subalpine Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Bonelli's Warbler, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Spotted Flycatcher, Jackdaw, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Serin, Golfinch, Cirl Bunting, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting.

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

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