Friday 29 March
Eldest son, David over for five nights with Caroline and they were keen to join me on a little birding to see how our Spanish birds might differ form those regularly seen in their large, wooded garden. Rain promised for the first two days so we manage to get a visit over to the Alhambra at Granada completed but, instead of rain, we had some lovely sunny weather. Serious rain promised for their last two days and sun and probable rain for Saturday so it was an easy choice in selecting Good Friday where, at least, we had the promise of dry weather id some what cloudy. And "good" it was in just about all aspects. The Ventas de Zaffarya railway track was a little on the very cool side with a gusty wind behind us on the outward journey but thereafter the clouds cleared away and the day became quite warm with glorious sunshine and very little cloud. Wonderful and just goes to show that you accept weather forecasts as sound advice but not necessarily a "God given" as they say.
The four of us, including brother-in-law Chris who had also arrive the same day, had no sooner driven round the corner form Casa Collado and we had a lovely Rock Bunting on the track in front of us. Finding it in the nearby shrub also produced a Sardinian Warbler and these were quickly followed by a pair of Great Tits and yet another Thekla Lark and we had only travelled less than 500 metres. Add on a number of Spotless Starlings and we were well on our way to "non-British" birds.
Greeted by a Collared Dove on arrival at the Ventas de Zafarraya mirador we were soon hearing the Chough calls and before long were seeing the birds in front of and over the usual nesting cliff face. Great silhouettes as they flew over and then on up the track and through the tunnel picking up numerous Black Wheatears. Once through the tunnel, we picked up a pair of Ravens followed by a male Blue Rock Thrush. A single Blackbird made an appearance followed by a quartet of Rock Buntings. Checking out the distant slopes I suddenly had a rather lovely male Montagu's Harrier slowly quartering the slopes until it disappeared from view below the track. Returning to the cars we had but one single Crag Martin come out and fly round the tunnel.
However, very few birds were seen, but we did have a good sighting of a pair of Ibex watching us from the top of the cliffs, and we decided to head off towards the "Magpie Woods" in the hope of some flashing blue but we were to be disappointed. We had our first Mistle Thrush and another Blackbird, not to mention House Sparrows as we drove through the growing fields, and so we continued westwards to try and locate some close views of Corn Buntings and lark. In this we were to be successful. A number of Corn Buntings on the wires and both Spotless Starlings and Crested Larks on the stony ground just beyond the last farm on the road towards the "broken" road leading to Loja.
|Departing Short-toed Lark Terrera Comun Calandrella brachydactyla
Mission accomplished, the plan was to make our way back to Ventas de Zafarraya for a coffee (to be accompanied by a small party of Mistle Thrushes immediately outside the venta) and try out a little "off-roading" as we tackled the mountain track down through the Sierra Tejeda to Alcaucin, calling in at the picnic sites on the way. But bonus after bonus, no sooner had we returned to the Magpie Woods that we had first a single Wood Pigeon and then a small flock of those rather handsome Azure-winged Magpies which gave very good sightings of both their coloured wings and lovely head markings.
|Record shot of Booted Eagle Aguililla Calzada Hieraaetus pennatus
|Distant Crossbill Piquituerto Comun Loxia curvirostra
John and Jenny might have rushed home to avid the arriving rain whereas we were probably trying to get out of the heat! Greenfinches driving back up the track and then David had a go at capturing a distant Stonechat to take our final tally for the day to a not-too disappointing 30 species.
Male Stonechat Tarabilla Comun Saxicola torquatus (PHOTO: David Wright)
Booted eagle, Montagu's Harrier, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Calandra Lark, Short-toed lark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Stonechat, Black-eared Wheatear, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Sardinian Warbler, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Azure-winged magpie, Magpie, Chough, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Crossbill, Rock Bunting and Corn Bunting.
Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.