Wednesday, 16 July 2014

More Sierra Loja with John and Jenny

Wednesday 16 July

The weather continues to be very warm with our usual afternoon breeze but without transport, having to share the small car with Jenny and her many pursuits, birding seems to have very much take a back seat.  Also, not helped by the fact that I have to remain near home awaiting a call from a courier bringing equipment over from the UK to our neighbour.  So it was rather a delight to receive John and Jenny Wainwright's report from their trip up their favourite local site at the Sierra Loja.  Despite the heat, even hotter inland than where we are on our mountain top, John and Jenny managed to find both the summering Rock Thrushes and Black-eared Wheatears.  Strange to see no mention of Northern Wheatear as they were also conspicuous by their absence in the Serrania de Ronda last Saturday.  On the other hand, Alpine Swifts seem to be on the move so certainly keep an eye open for these large swifts if in the mountains during the next week.
John's report follows and all the photographs on this occasion are by Jenny Wainwright.

Sierra Loja Tuesday 15 July

Very hot 38C/98F, this with a good breeze.

We started off from the village at about 9.30am and saw to our delight a Little Owl - if you have read my last report we had three owls killed - the delight was not too last as another one was dead in the middle of the road and just as we entered the slip road to the A92 another bird was found.  Also about were Spotless Starlings, Collared Doves, House Sparrows and a Blackbird.  After coffee and tapas at our regular stop we headed up to the old workings, en route seeing Chaffinches, Spotted Flycatchers, Stonechats and yet more Collared Doves.   It was good to note that the family of Crag Martins - who had nested under the autovia bridge - had fledged.

Now where's Mum gone? A family of juvenile Red-legged Partridges Alectoris rufa

The workings was dead apart from some Goldfinches, House Martins and Red-legged Partridges.  Moving up through the tree line good numbers of Azure-winged Magpies were seen - and heard, with Chaffinches and a few Serins.  At the cliffs, even with the climbers being back, we did find Southern Grey Shrikes, Stonechats, Woodchat Shrike (a Spectacled Warbler surprised me here) then a Corn Bunting and a Common Kestrel.  A bit further up at the second cliff section we found another Southern Grey Shrike feeding its young, small numbers of Linnets, a Sardinian Warbler and another Woodchat Shrike.  A male and female Blue Rock Thrush were located on the cliff face itself.

The curious Little Owls Athene noctua
Around the quarry area we saw our first Black-eared Wheatear, one of a large number in total today, along with Thekla Larks, Stonechats and a Hoopoe.  Reaching the sub-station valley we found firstly a single Little Owl then across the other side of the road we found another two together on the top of a rock-pile.  More Black-eared Wheatears (juveniles and adults) and another Southern Grey Shrike. Five or six Striped Grayling butterflies ( Hipparchia fidia) were seen here also.

Black-eared Wheatear  Oenanthe hispanica
Just prior to the ponds we stopped to look at a flock of Common Swifts, when a juvenile or female -  very hard to separate them - Rock Thrush posed for us.  Parking up at the lower pond - which at the moment is having it´s retaining stone wall raised - we again started scanning the swift flocks for Alpines, of which we found four, and three Pallids as well.  Above the flock a lone Griffon Vulture and then a Short-toed Eagle flew past and over the cliff in the direction of Venta del Rayo, a flock of some hundred or so Chough took off.  On the small cliff face by the pond a female Common Kestrel landed and put the local Rock Sparrows to flight, along with House Sparrows, a male Black Redstart and a Hoopoe. The lower pond with its very minimal amount of water, was being used as a bath by a dozen Linnets and a few Goldfinches

Juvenile/female Rock Thrush Monticola saxatilis
Lots of butterflies here including the Striped Grayling, Clouded Yellow, Adonis Blue, Marbled White and a Humming-bird Hawk Moth.   The top pond was totally dry.

Striped Grayling Hipparchia fidia butterfly
Moving along to the fossil cave area we found our first Black Wheatear of the day.  Also here we saw a single Meadow Pipit, female Black Redstart, two Common Kestrels, a Hoopoe, more of the prevoiusly named Swifts including Alpines and a male Greenfinch.

Female Woodchat Shrike  Lanius senator
Round to the small fir copse where we located five Hoopoes, Goldfinches and above, on the small cliff top, sat two Spanish Ibex.  On the way back down we called in at the hidden quarry where we saw Crag Martins, Barn Swallow, Crested Larks and two more Spotted Flycatchers.  The cicadas had started up their chorus from the firs here.

Well worth a bit of effort in the heat, glad of the breeze up top though!!!

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