Friday 22 January 2016

Axarquia Bird group visit to the Sierra Tejeda

Rock Bunting Escribano Montesino Emberiza cia
Thursday 21 January

Leaving the coast at 8.45 on a very pleasant morning with  the temperature at 14C along with visiting Dutch birder Lisette Heikoop by the time we arrived at the meeting point above the old railway bridge at Ventas de Zafarraya, having seen both Collared Doves and a pair of Kestrels on the way, the temperature had dropped to 8C and the very strong, blustering wind seemed to give the place to a chill factor of barely 2 or 3 degrees if not less.  Brhhhh!  There to meet us were old friends John and Jenny Wainwright from Salar, who had already picked up Rock Sparrows since their arrival, Gerry Collins and Adri Pazato from Salobrena and all the way over from the other side of Malaga Barbara and Derek Etherton along with Micky Smith, four of them having seen a lovely Bonellis's Eagle plus Crested Lark as they approached the pass.  As we sorted ourselves out putting on layer after layer complete with hats, gloves and anything else we could lay our hands upon, a Black Wheatear looked down on us, no doubt think what a load of whimps these humans are and a few White Wagtails wandered around the car park..

No time to worry about such thoughts we keen to get underway and get some warmth into our bodies and just hope the sun might put in an appearance as we approached the tunnel and out of the shadow of the opposite peak.  At that point we heard then saw the massed flock of Choughs which probably totalled around the seventy plus mark as they wheeled around one cliff then another and seemed to be present for the whole of stay.  Working our way along the track towards the tunnel we cam e across the first regular sightings of Thekla Larks and a number of Goldfinches. beyond the tunnel we had our first Black Redstart followed by more Thekla Larks and a couple of Rock Sparrows, a number of both Stonechats and Chaffinches and a single Greenfinch whilst below we also recorded Robin, Chiffchaff and Blackbird.  A Meadow Pipit made a very brief appearance but, perhaps, the best sighting was the pair of Wood Larks that flew immediately overhead before turning towards the mountainside.  Finally, we managed to find a good, but distant, view of a Blue Rock Thrush.  Whilst we had seen a single Ibex standing aloof atop the mountain's cliff face it was, nevertheless, pleasing to see a mother and yearling cross the track immediately in front of us before seeking higher ground.

Ibex Capra pyrenaica and kid (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Time to return to the car park where we managed to see our first Red-legged Partridge of the day and then, by way of recovery, made our way to the nearby bar to both use the facilities and warm ourselves up with a hot coffee before carrying on up to the woods at El Robledal.

Passing White Wagtails, Spotless Starlings and House Sparrows as we approached the track from the min road to El Robedal we were soon making the first of very many stops along the way to check for "hiding" birds.  The first produced another flock of Choughs but a single Wood Pigeon managed to keep moving along at a steady pace.   Ere long we were finding the odd Great and Blue Tit as well as more Chaffinches.  Having found our first Mistle Thrush we were then also introduced to the first of many sightings of the white rumps of various Jays as they disappeared into nearby foliage.  But, on the top of a small ridge, posed what we first thought was going to be a Kestrel.. The bins revealed that it certainly was not and yet not a second Mistle Thrush.  Time for the scope.  What a find, and a bird I had so far missed all winter, a rather "chubby" Fieldfare looking quite dark against the surrounding greenery.  Meanwhile, over the trees, we started to see a small number of Crag Martins.

Rock Bunting Escribano Montesino Emberiza cia
Then for a very pleasant surprise, a pair of Rock Buntings and they refused to move on s that we all had very good views.  Not content with the status quo the birds were joined by a Cirl Bunting.  Just a few hundred metres later we stopped to look at another nearby bush in front of us and not only both Cirl and Rock Buntings but a number of Corn Buntings had come to join them.

Cirl Bunting EscribanoSoteno Emberiza cirius (PHOTO: Jenny Wainwright)

A very high Bonelli's Eagle, which caused much discussion as to its identity where we eventually agreed it was a juvenile, drifted over as were in the car park.

Distant Bonelli's Eagle Aguila-azor Perdicera Hieraaetus fasciatus
At about this time we saw, rather than just heard, the first of a number of sightings of Greater Spotted Woodpeckers and, indeed, the yaffle was followed by the appearance of a Green Woodpecker.  A distant small group of Azure-winged Magpies were recorded along with another Red-legged Partridge.  Derek managed to pick out a fleeing Nuthatch and Lisette heard the distinctive call of a Crested Tit.  In the tall, bear tree near the ruined farm at the car park a number of Crossbills were active.  In this area we also herd Coal Tits and all saw Long-tailed Tits and a few of the members another Blue Tit.

Whilst most of us, now well past thee o'clock, set off for a well-earned menu del dia back at Ventas de Zafarraya, John and Jenny returned to one of their favoured spots and managed to also find Nuthatch, Wood Lark, Green and Greater Spotted Woodpeckers, an Iberian Grey Shrike, Jays, Spotless Starlings, Wood Pigeon and more Mistle Thrushes.  A Common Kestrel was seen on a pylon as we left the area (also seen by the rest of the party) and on their way back to Salar the pair also recorded Corn Buntings, a Common Buzzard and a Lesser Kestrel

Considering the conditions, all in all a very pleasing day with a final tally of at least 46 species.

My special thanks to John Wainwright for sending in his report from which the above was complield along with my own observations.

Birds seen:
Red-legged Partridge, Bonelli's Eagle, Buzzard, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Wood Lark, Crag Martin, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Mistle Thrush, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Long-tailed Tit, Crested Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Iberian Grey Shrike, Jay, Azure-winged Magpie, Chough, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Chafinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Crossbill, Cirl Bunting, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting.

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

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