Monday 20 January 2014

"You're 'aving a lark!" - but ton up.

Monday 20 January

A beautiful start to the day with clear blue skies and a glorious sun.  That was the good news.  Following the coldest night of the winter here despite the above it was blowing a gale and bloomin' cold to boot.  Nevermind, domestics completed by 10.15 I decided to drive up to the pass at Ventas de Zafarraya and the hinterland to see if I could find four new birds for the year and so complete the hundred for 1014 to date.  Four?  In the end I had eight new species for the year so I can now return to England with the ton completed.

Driving down the mountain I had the first of at least seven Kestrel seen during the morning, quite a change that, along with a small flock of Serins.  Again, no shortage of White Wagtails about and then a small feeding group of Crag Martins as I started the ascent up to the pass at Ventas de Zafarraya.  Here it was decidedly windy so I stayed in the car and drove up and through the old railway tunnel to the ruin.  Nothing to be seen apart from a pair of Choughs beating a hasty retreat down the slope towards the main road below. 

Azure-winged Magpie Rabilargo Cyanopica cyanus
No point hanging around so onwards and through the "Magpie Woods" without a bird in sight and on to the arable fields alongside the old road to Loja.  Now there were birds to be seen but, initially, they took some finding.  Spotless Starlings and House Sparrow near the farm buildings but just beyond both Thekla and Crested Larks. A Blackbird chased across the road and then the first of a handful of Meadow Pipits feeding on the ground where I was trying to locate some larks.  At the far end of the road, approaching the crossroad, I eventually succeeded in finding some new birds.  Not the Goldfinches or more Crested Larks but a couple of Wood Larks.  Birds in the shy and almost immediately I also had a large flock of Calandra Larks, probably totalling about an hundred.  Finally, a couple of Greenfinches landed in the same area.

Taking the left turn on the relatively newly-surfaced road it was not long before I had another Kestrel followed buy a large flock of Chaffinches and a smaller charm of Goldfinches.  In amongst the rocks just round the corner I stopped to check out what appeared t be a large gathering of Crested Larks to pleasantly discover that they were indeed Sky Larks.  Four new birds required and three already found and all larks; as they say, "You're 'aving a lark!"  A little further on the century was reached when I came across a small feeding party of Azure-winged Magpies which added to the half-dozen Common Magpies seen only minutes before.  Turning round just beyond the tree line, I re-found the Azure-winged Magpies and this time they had a Jay with them for company, so now 101.  Also in the area where I stopped a pair of Mistle Thrush moved off up the scree.  This was to be the precursor of another six of these thrushes to be seen in the coming hour or so.  With a lovely male Stonechat and a nearby male Black Redstart to see me off, I passed the feeding Chiffchaffs and Corn Buntings and headed back towards home.

Rapidly retreating Common Buzzard  Busardo Ratonero Buteo buteo
Before taking the mountain trail down to the Alcaucin picnic area I made a very brief detour to the Robledal woods where I picked up both Rock Bunting and a Common Buzzard.  There were also lots of Chaffinches here along with Great Tits but the sun seemed always to be in my face and I decided to head off as the wind started to pick up again.

Female Crossbill Piquituerto Comun Loxia curvirostra at the upper picnic site
The mountain track duly produced a female Crossbill and Robin at the upper picnic area whereas the lower area had a Crested Tit not three metres away from me and a couple more Rock Buntings.  So having doubled the required number of new species required for the century I decided that it was time to head off home in the hope that I could get this blog published before it gets too late.  All now completed save adding a few photos.

Birds seen:
Buzzard, Kestrel, Rock Dove, Calandra Lark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Wood Lark, Sky Lark, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Chiffchaff, Crested Tit, Great Tit,  Jay, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Chough, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting.

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

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