Saturday 14 September 2013

Ventas de Zafarraya, Alcaucin and Home

Saturday 14 September

It seemed like a good idea to pop up to the old railway line at Ventas de Zafarraya and then drive down the mountain track past the two picnic sites above Alacaucin.  No at home to worry about, plenty of time for a shave and shower before going to the monthly dance; what could possibly go wrong?

Travelling down our mountain track I had the usual Thekla Larks and Serins and on reaching the village the low cloud base had encouraged all the local House Martins to come down in search of their morning feed.  How many?  Well in excess of 250 and just like driving through a cloud of mosquitoes.  Then, approaching the lake, a couple of Red-rumped Swallows.  Talking of cloud, that was what greeted me on arrival at the mirador at the pass and the only bird seen on the upwar jurney was a single male Stonechat at the side of the road.  So bad I could barely see the edge of the car park never mind the track itself.  Obviously no point in walking the old railway track so decided to check-out the nearby growing fields starting at the former "Muck Heap" where, all being well, there might be better visibility.

Male Crossbill Loxia curvirostra
All that was to be seen was a solitary Blackbird followed a little later by a couple of Serins and a handful of Goldfinches.  A drive around the back of the area produced a Collared Dove and a number of Spotless Starlings before encountering some very large flocks of House Sparrows feeding on the recently cropped fields.  I even came across a pair of Mallards and, I suspect, feral Greylag Geese on one of the isolated village ponds.

Nothing for it but to head over to the Sierra Tejeda and take the mountain track down to Alcaucin.  Still dull weather that made seeing anything, always assuming that any bird might want to be seen.  A large flock of Chaffinches early on and then the top picnic area produced another plus a quartet of Crossbills, the latter again producing a nearer lovely male.  And that was it as the cloud closed in reducing visibility to less than ten, if not five, metres.  A very slow drive down the mountain, thank goodness I know where all the severe bends are, hugging the nearside at less than 10km per hour.  It was either that or take the magic mushrooms and trust that the car would sprout wings as it took off into the sky!

Honey Buzzards Perbnis apivorus on their way south
But the adventure was not finished.  Nearing the lower picnic site and the visibility jut as bad I was suddenly confronted with a grey 4 x 4 about three metres in front of me.  He may have seen both me headlights and fog lamps and knew that I was approaching but did he have any lights turned on?  Of course he did not; he and his two passenger were as happy as sand boys as they drove up the hill towards me.  And another thing whilst I think of it, if we had touched guess who the local police would have believed?  Only in Spain!

Then in the clear when I hit the road and made my back top Los Romanes.  A stop at my neighbours for a coffee at about one o'clock and forget the Barn Swallows and House Martins that were flying around the house, forget the Bee-eaters that arrived and even the Kestrel that came to perch on the nearby radio mast; it was the huge numbers of Honey Buzzards that had decided it was time to carry on southwards with, at a minimum, at least 250 passing directly overhead that got our attention.  Now I wonder if the computer will behave itself and let me get the images onto the blog?

Birds seen:
Greylag Goose, Mallard, Honey Buzzard, Kestrel, Collared Dove, Bee-eater, Thekla Lark, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Red-rumped Swallow, Stonechat, Blackbird, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Goldfinch, Crossbill.


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

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