Monday 23 December 2013

Ventas de Zafarraya and the Sierra Tejeda

Monday 23 December

Meadow Pipit Bisbita Pratense Anthus pratensis
With today forecast as the only bright day of the week, I took myself up the local mountain to complete the circuit including the old railway track at Ventas de Zafarray, the "Magpie Woods" beyond and then back down the mountain track on the Sierra Tejeda past the picnic sites, concluding in the village of Alcaucin.  Not a cloud in the sky as I made my way down the mountain recording Sardinian Warblers, Black Redstarts, Blue rock Thrush, White Wagtails and Kestrel.  Ere long I was at the mirador at Ventas de Zafarraya and welcomed by some happy Spotless Starlings, a trio of Meadow Pipits and a couple of White Wagtails, like me rejoicing in the fact that the weather was not as cold as I had anticipated, despite putting on many extra layers!

Off along the track and a single Robin to see me on my way along with a distant Southern Grey Shrike.  I was to see another couple of Robins and, if the same individual, the shrike was much closer when I walked back to the car.  A Blue Rock Thrush "jumped" over the track and disappeared down below and then I caught a movement to my right and an Alpine Accentor paused long enough for me to get a quick shot before it joined its partner further u the rock face and both disappeared from view.  But I did get to see both birds in good light which was absolutely marvellous.

Record shot of Alpine Accentor Prunella collaris
Very few Black Wheatears about but the first recorded just before the tunnel.  They may have been appearing in very good numbers at lower altitudes but there were still plenty of both Black Redstarts and Crag Martins to be seen, the latter feeding over the slopes above the track.  And who could not mistake that definitive call as the first of the Choughs put in an appearance quickly followed by their "mates" until, at one point, there must have been almost an hundred swirling about above me and the cliff face.  At about this time I decided to return to the car and explore the "Magpie Woods" and no sooner had I started back when I had not only a couple of Great Tit but numerous Stonechats in view.  A single Chiffchaff and Thekla Lark before the re-entering the tunnel and, on emerging on the other side, before long I had my second view of the Southern Grey Shrike resting at the top of a bare bush.

Calandra Lark Calandria Comun Melanocorypha calandra resting in the warm sunshine
House Sparrows, Goldfinches and Serins as I made my up to and through the Magpie Woods but, apart from a Mistle Thrush, little else.  Even the arable fields beyond were very quiet though I did pick up a couple of Calandra Larks and a Crested Lark on the return journey.  Two female/juvenile Kestrels were watching from the top of an electricity pylon and a small mixed group of Goldfinches, Greenfinches and Serins were foraging at the side of the road.  Further back a small flock of Greenfinches were also busy feeding.  Meanwhile, the single (common) Magpie took off from the wires and disappeared westwards.

Rock Bunting Escribano Montesino Emberiza cia in a fir tree at the lower Alcaucin picnic site
Very little to be seen on the journey down the track through the Sierra Tejeda but I did manage to find a number of Blackbirds and the first of a few Chaffinches along with a single Jay.  The upper picnic area (what a mess this site is at the moment) produced a handful of Crossbills with a few more of the same at the lower picnic site.  The latter also produced more Great Tits and a couple of Rock Buntings along with the expected Chaffinches and yet another Blackbird.  I was about to report that the last birds recorded were a pair of Blackcaps as I neared the end of the track but then that would ignoring your favourites and mine, the Rock and Collared Doves, which duly presented themselves as I approached Alcaucin!  31 species recorded and time to go home.

Birds seen:
Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Southern Grey Shrike, Jay, Magpie, Chough, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Crossbill, Rock Bunting.

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