Wednesday 15 November 2017

Ventas de Zafarraya with the Axarquia Bird Group

Tuesday 14 November

Beautiful clear sky and quite warm as I set of for the monthly meet of the Axarquia Bird Group up at the mirador above the railway line at Ventas de Zafarraya on the Malaga/Granada provincial border but, by Jove, it was a little on the cool side shall we say once on site and all eight of us partaking were well wrapped up!  Good to see Judith Hill from Periana, Bob and Noreen Ashford from Los Romanes and John Ross and friends had travelled over from the Lecrin Valley well north of Salobrena and Lindsay Pheasant had made the long journey up form Marbella.  Made me feel almost local having come up from the coast at Mezquitilla!  We were welcomed by House Sparrows as Judy and I took an "early arrival" coffee and once at the car park we could start birding with a vengeance.

Black Redstart Colirrojo Tizon Phoenicurus ochruros
Before heading off up the old railway track to the tunnel the parking area produced a couple of Black Redstarts and Blackbird along with the first of many Stonechat.  Rather weird to watch a Heron flap its way over but the we could concentrate on the nearby Black Wheatears.  Lovely for all to see an Ibex perched on the skyline above the rock face in front of us and we were to see a few more before departing this site.  The walk up to the tunnel continued to produce Black Redstarts, Black Wheatears and Stonechats and then our first Blue Rock Thrush.  Meanwhile, the resident Crag Martins continued to skim along the rock face and around is as they gorged on the local "whatever" that were smaller then the eye could see and a handful of Rock Sparrows were recorded close to the track.   A flash of white high above and most of us had the bird in focus as the Peregrine Falcon landed on the top cliff. It took a while but the we heard them calling from above and finally the first appearance of the morning for the local Choughs returning to their preferred cliff face.

Walking out of the tunnel and into what seemed warmer air the Crag Martins were still active and seemed even closer.  Another Blue Rock Thrush plus the usuals then both our first Sardinian Warbler and Lindsay had sight of both Great Tit and a Greenfinch.  At last some good sightings of the resident Thekla Larks and then, just above the small spinney on the left, a pair of Blackcap brought to my attention as a male Blackbird moved off.  At the far end of the spinney a Song Thrush made a brief stop on the edge of the last tree and we turned our attention to old ruin and cliff slopes.  First a Sardinian Warbler then, to add to the Heron sighting, a trio of Cormorants flew south overhead.  Who needs to visit the coast!

Ring Ouzel Mirlo capiblanco Turdus torquatus
Whilst watching a Robin visit a bush above the ruins a, what seemed, very black Blackbird took off and away to our left where it came to rest on top of a large bush growing out of the rock face.  We had our suspicions at the time but getting the bird well in focus in the scope confirmed that I had seen my first Ring Ouzel at this site.  Making our way back the cars we also picked up a couple of Chaffinch in the spinney.

Saying goodbye to the railway track as a pair of Ibex looked down on us, we stopped for a very quick coffee at the nearby venta then headed off to the "Muck heap" in the growing fields.  Much of the cauliflowers had crop had been gathered in and never ceases to amaze me the quantity left behind as not being up to standard; ready to feed the local sheep flocks.  Looking at these vegetables you will see far worse on sale in your local supermarkets.  But there is always a bonus.  The girls took a walk to the local pickers and made enquiries and were presented with a freshly cut cauliflower and told to help themselves to any in the fields and the courgettes which had been left behind.  As I sit writing up this blog the smell of newly-made chutney and pickle is drifting through the house!

Black Wheatear Collalba Negra Oenanthe leucura

Back to the birding.  The muck heap may now be long gone but the birds are still around and waiting to be recorded including Linnets, Serin and Rock Doves.  A kestrel was hovering overhead and as we re-arranged what looked like our mobile greengrocers' shops, a Mistle Thrush flew over the road.

Next stop was at the growing fields on the road towards Salar having turned off left at the end of the "Magpie Woods" where not a single Azure-winged magpies was seen but we did find another Robin and a distant Jay.  On parking we were greeting by a feeding flock well in excess of an hundred Rock Doves and searching around found a small number of House Sparrows and a few Spotless Starlings.  But at least one Tree Sparrow was recorded and looking left towards the hilltop we had first a Common Buzzard when Noreen drew our attention to the trio of Griffon Vultures to the right then Australian Bob had us looking back left as he found an immature Golden Eagle.  Now that was a good sighting with, at one very brief moment, all three raptors in view at the same time.

Moving on and up past the farm we found a number of feeding White Wagtails in the neighbouring fields and wondered when we would see our first (Common) Magpie.  John and his car picked up a Hoopoe and Judith spotted the first Magpie as it moved off from a nearby tree quickly followed by a second, then a third.  No wonder we stopped as a final count came to 29 and a further six were seen before we got to the crossroads.

Magpie Urraca Pica pica
Just before turning left to take the anti-clockwise circuit we stopped as a dark shape departed form a large tree immediately in front of the car to the left.  I think most of us were waiting to see the white rump and confirm a female Hen Harrier but as it rose clear of the foliage we could see that the bird was both darker and larger; strong, straight wings with the tell-tale white markings along with the same on the tail and so confirming an immature Golden Eagle.  As it ascended we noticed that there was a second Golden Eagle immediately above and this individual being harried by a Kestrel. Wow!

Immature Golden Eagle Aguila Real Aquila chrysaetos

John's car pulled up behind us thinking that we were watching the Red-legged Partridges moving away to the right but, the Golden Eagles stayed around for a while and we were all able to see this magnificent sight.  A good-sized charm of Goldfinches fed at the roadside and now we were very much into Woodpigeon territory.

Just round the corner the farmers were gathering up the bamboo sticks at the end of the tomato harvest and, as before, no shortage of the fruit on the ground.  But it did seem to provide food, mainly insects, flies, etc, for the feeding Meadow Pipits, Chiffchaff and Stonechats.  Indeed, surprise surprise, Bob and I actually managed to find a very late female Whinchat, with its well-pronounced and distict supercilium, joining in the feast.  Continuing on we saw a second and third Jay move away into the trees, loads of Woodpigeons and then a couple of Corn Bunting on the wires near the now dry stream.  However, checking out the "over-large" specimen that replaced them we found a second Song Thrush of the day.  But, finally, at least three-quarters of the way round the circuit we eventually found our Azure-winged Magpies with at least twenty-five counted and a Collared Dove.

Azure-winged Magpie Rabilargo Cyanopica cyanus
A final stop back at the growing fields once more found the large flock of Rock Doves but on the wire above them our first Iberian Grey Shrike.  The bird dropped to the ground which then revealed not only the ;large number of feeding White Wagtails but a flock of possibly eighty or more Linnets.  But there were larks too.  Not just a couple of Crested Larks but, well-hidden and keeping low, a small number of Calandra Larks.  And so ended a very enjoyable days birding with a final total of 47 species and chance to head off home by just after 3.30pm.

Birds seen:
Red-legged Partridge, Cormorant, Heron, Griffon Vulture, Golden Eagle, Buzzard, Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Rock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Whinchat, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Ring Ouzel, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Sardinian Warber, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Iberian Grey Shrike, Jay, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Chough, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

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

No comments:

Post a Comment