It may have been Easter Saturday but it did not prevent twelve of us from the Andalucia Bird Society meeting up at the mirador above Ventas de Zafarraya to walk the railway line and then follow on to the woods over at El Robledal. We had expected a cold start but, for some strange reason, there was more direct sunlight at 9.30 than expected so a very pleasant day indeed which simply got warmer and warmer. Indeed, no sooner had I arrived and been joined by Derek and Barbara Etherton than a single Bonelli's Eagle drifted over above us to be followed, almost immediately, by a pair of Ravens travelling in the opposite, eastwards, direction. Also seen at the very start of the day were Blackbird, Spotless Starling and Collared Dove and as the group prepared to move off we had our first Chough of the morning.
Meanwhile, in the immediate area of the car park there were Stonechats, Serins and Goldfinches to be seen and before we had reached the tunnel we had the first of many Blue Rock Thrush sightings. A pair of Linnets flitted about and then our first of the breeding Black Wheateras. A number of Rock Sparrow were resting on the wires and, in addition to the local Crag Martins, an Alpine Swift flew out from the large cave. Above the cave perched on the precipice, a single Ibix worked its way along the rock face to the pleasure of all those watching and waiting for the first slip - but they never do! Other small birds noted in the tunnel vicinity were Greenfinch, Blue Tit and Black Redstart.
Reaching the old ruin before commencing our return walk we also found Sardinian Warbler then a pair a Melodious Warbler with its very yellow front. On the relatively recently restored farmhouse a small number of House Sparrows were recorded along with the nesting House Martins. A pair of Woodchat Shrike were a delight but, perhaps, the best sighting was that of a pair of Spectacled Warblers which regularly "popped up" so that all got at least a brief view. The distant Peregrine Falcon that we all saw perched on the cliff top near its traditional nest when we first started walking put in an appearance as it saw off a Black Kite that had strayed a little too close to it territory. Very high and only visible with binoculars, a small flock of about a dozen Alpine Swifts were making their way northwards. More Black Wheatears, Blue Rock Thrushes and Crag Martins as we approached the cars and then Common Swift as we headed away from the village and up to El Robledal with a coffee break before starting along the track.
The track produced the first Chaffinches and a very close Woodchat Shrike and Dartford Warbler. At least four jays crossed the road and flew through the neighbouring trees along with a Mistle Thrush. A Green Woodpecker was heard "yaffling" away as we made our first longer stop to be rewarded with Coal Tits and Chaffinches and then a very close Cuckoo singing its well-known song. Next it was a pair of Wood Lark sighted by about half the group before reaching the car park area for lunch our picnic lunch.
The car park was relatively quiet and devoid of birds other than the occasional Chaffinch and Great Tit as we started off on our anti-clockwise circuit of the nearby woods. A pair of distant Griffon Vultures and a Woodpigeon went crashing out of a nearby tree. A few also saw the Common Kestrel before it was masked by the sun shining straight into our eyes. Indeed, it was a very pleasant walk but we probably saw more butterflies athan birds! About half-way round we stopped to study the dark morph Booted Eagle and whilst a couple picked up a Short-toed Treecreeper we were almost back at the car park when the action really started. First a Nuthatch climbing down the trunk whilst others missed it to watch the Long-tailed Tit in the next tree. Ere long all had seen both. Then, within sight of the cars, a dark shape high in the sky and as we watched the bird turned, flew on, then back and gave all, or certainly most, the opportunity to get the birds in their bins and successfully identify it as a Goshawk. Now that's the way to end a birding day with a smile on your face and 45 species recorded, including, for me, three new sightings for the year.
Black Kite, Griffon Vulture, Bonelli's Eagle, Booted Eagle, Goshawk, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Rock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Cuckoo, Alpine Swift, Common Swift, Green Woodpecker, Wood Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Melodious Warbler, Dartford Warbler, Spectacled Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper, Woodchat Shrike, Jay, Chough, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet.
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