Thursday 3 October 2013

Ventas de Zafarraya

Whinchat Tarabilla Nortena Saxicola rubetra
Thursday 3 October

A quiet morning and with Jenny off shopping I decided I would "pop up" to the pass at Ventas de Zafarraya for the morning and complete the anti-clockwise circuit beyond the "Magpie Woods" to see what might be about.  Good news for Steve in that there was a steady supply of birds all morning so, avian wise, all would appear to be looking up.  On the other hand, just as I was about to leave the clouds parted and we had a two-minute downpour.  I told Jenny I had seen lightening in the night but she would not believe me!  Anyway, the sun was bursting through as I set off down the mountain track accompanied the resident Sardinian WarlersThekla Larks, a male Blue Rock Thrush and even a couple of Barn Swallows.

Black Wheatear  Collalba Negra  Oenanthe leucura
Up and along the old railway track by 10.30 and greeted a by a large flock of migrating Barn Swallows.  Nearer at hand a small number of Serins and Goldfinches were feeding in the nearby bushes, lots of berries about at the moment, and a beautiful male Black Redstart put in an appearance.   No sooner had I seen my first Black Wheatear than a Rock Bunting flew across the track and up the bank revealing a pair of feeding Crag Martins.  Approaching the tunnel there more Crag Martins to be seen and also in the tunnel visiting nest sites; perhaps there are one or two late broods still to fledge.  A lone Great Tit was prospecting outside along a with a few House Sparrows and then my first (here) Blue Rock Thrush.  No sooner through the tunnel than I saw the black clouds ahead and felt first spots of rain.  I know when I am beat and not wearing the appropriate clothing so returned to car recording a female Stonechat on the way.  Note that not a single Chough was seen or heard on this occasion.

Stonechat  Tarabilla Comun  Saxicola torquatus
A quick tour round the neighbouring growing fields from the "Muck Heap" whilst the showers cleared away (strange that as the sun was streaming in on the other side of the car!) produced a number of Corn Buntings, Thekla Larks and a White Wagtail.  Then the drive through the Magpie Woods produced a couple of Azure-winged Magpies along with a departing Mistle Thrush.

Record shot of a gorgeous male Black Redstart Colirrojo Tizon Phoenicurus ochruros
Turning left after the woods I stopped beyond the farms to check out the arable fields and whilst I found no Calandra Larks there were numerous Blue-headed Wagtails (Yellow Wagtail of the Iberian sub-species) along with the first of many Northern Wheatears.  Taking a left just before the broken Loja road to start the anti-clockwise circuit I had soon recorded both Jay and Blackbird followed a regular stream of (common) Magpies.  A Hoopoe disappeared behind the farm buildings and then another male Black Redstart.  From here on there were regular sightings of both Thekla and Crested larks (mainly the former) until I came across that bird that seem to have alluded me all year, my first Whinchat.  There it was, sitting on the fence with yet another Northern Wheatear for company just below.  Time will soon tell whether or not I managed to get the camera to focus on the bird through the car window.

Northern Wheatear  Collalba Gris Oenanthe oenanthe
A little further ion and I found all the missing Azure-winged Magpies; there were scores of them feeding in and around the almond orchard.  Add on yet more Spotless Starlings and I was ready for the last leg of the circuit.  Stopping to check out another small orchard on the right the movement proved to be a Spotted Flycatcher but, as I studied the trees and undergrowth, I also found a handful of feeding Chiffchaff.  Finally, A Common Kestrel atop one of the electricity pylons and it was time to forget the mountain track down to Alcaucin and head off back home.  Then, with five minutes, surprise  surprise I came across Mick Richardson and family on their way home to Loja from a recent visit to Nerja.  Lovely to have five minutes to discuss things with Mick and hear that his birding business is doing very well.  Thinking of visiting this part of Andalucía?  Then you could do no better than contact Mick for an excellent day's tour (see his website at

One of many skulking Magpies Urraca Pica pica

Birds seen:
Kestrel, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Blue-headed Wagtail, White Wagtail, Black Redstart, Whinchat, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Spotted Flycatcher, Jay, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting.

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

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