Thursday 29 August 2013

More from the Sierra Loja

You just can't keep John and Jenny Wainwright away from this wonderful birding site.  Still, if we all live  that near then no doubt we, too, would be hot-footing it up the mountain in search of raptors, Rock Thrushes, Black-eared Wheatears, Spectacled warblers, etc.  Here follows John's report and all the photographs used are his as taken during the visit.

Sierra Loja - 29 August

As the forecast was for storms today and tomorrow (Thursday), we thought we would chance our arm for a couple of hours up the local spot.   The dark clouds followed us around the mountain but only one spot of rain was felt.  At least it was fresh here and with a temperature of 20C and a gentle breeze.

Black-eared Wheatear  Collalba Rubia Oenanthe hispanica
En route we saw a few Wood Pigeons, a Turtle Dove and House Martin.

At the hidden quarry - in the small conifer copse - we saw Crossbill, Sardinian Warbler, Chaffinch, Common Kestrel and Stonechats.  A Scarce Swallowtail was seen here also.

On the slope below the giant cross we saw more Stonechats and Red-legged Partridges, heard Dartford Warbler and Jackdaw, and we found in a small bush a Rock Bunting and another Sardinian Warbler.  As we dropped down to the main track a Wood Lark started to sing (I wasn´t expecting that today!) and a Spotted Flycatcher left the safety of an oak tree to catch an insect.

The first cliff face was being used by climbers so we by-passed that and headed for the next one.  All we saw was a single Jackdaw and nothing else until the working quarry.   Here we had a job locating a juvenile Woodchat Shrike finally finding it secreted at the back of a bush and the first of a huge number of Black-eared Wheatears was noted.

Again nothing more - not even a Thekla Lark - until the substation valley.  An adult Woodchat Shrike was spotted in the large bare tree here and then our first Northern Wheatear.  Also a flock of some forty Chough was seen feeding and lots more Red-legged Partridges were about.

Small Copper  Lycaena phlaeas
Striped Grayling  Hipparchia fidia

Then off to the pond (Charco del Negra).  The water level is down to about two foot but there were still a few butterflies here including Striped Grayling (Hipparchia fidia), Common Grayling (Hipparchia semele), Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) and Common Blue (Polyomattus icarus).  On the bird side we saw Rock Sparrows, another Northern Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatears, Linnets, Thekla Larks and Goldfinches.

Northern Wheatear Collalba Gris Oenanthe oenanthe
Moving on to the fossil cave area we found a Blue Rock Thrush, Black Redstarts, four Black Wheatears, two of these were juveniles being fed, also one large flock of Goldfinches and a smaller flock of Linnets.  A strange sight here was of a Black-eared Wheatear which was perched in a small bush and every now and then it would fly round to the opposite side of the bush and hover like a hummingbird, as in the photo.  I couldn´t see any insects in the area so anybody any idea what it was doing?

Crossbill Piquituerto Comun Loxia curvirostra
On the track leading from Sierra Gordo we found more Northern Wheatears and further down at the small fir copse, five Mistle Thrushes circled us before heading away.

As we left the wind turbines behind, two Bonelli´s Eagles were spotted by Jenny and we spent a good fifteen minutes watching them through the scope and also they were close enough at times, for the use of binoculars.

On our return and passing the cliffs, the climbers had gone, we found Blue Rock Thrush, Crag Martin, a Lesser Kestrel, more Chough, Spotless Starlings and two Rock Buntings.  A single Azure-winged Magpie showed itself in the tree-line and three more Spotted Flycatchers were seen in the smaller oaks - where we were serenaded by countless Cicadas - which made locating a singing Crossbill difficult.  Jenny found it in the end though, along with several others.  A Chaffinch was also seen in this vicinity.

It was nice to see so many Northern Wheatears at one time - well seven,anyhow - our best day total all summer.

Many thanks John for an informative report.  Just goes to show, make the effort and there are still lots of birds to be found.

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