Tuesday 16 February 2016

The old Zafarraya road and beyond

Little Owl Athene noctua (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Monday 15 February

Despite the on and off occasional drip of rain here on the coast, John and Jenny Wainwright managed to find a little more serious precipitation on their birding excursion towards Malaga province which took in the old, now easily accessible, old road to Zafarraya.  Great little road this as you can usually guarantee finches at the top, Mistle Thrushes and Red-legged Partridges as you drive down and loads of Corn Buntings and a mixture of larks at the bottom.  The road then gives you an opportunity to either take a little circuit, which obviously John and Jenny did, or carry on towards the "Growing Fields" beyond Ventas de Zafarraya and through the "Magpie Woods" where, if not already seen along with their more "Common" cousins, one should be able to pick up Azure-winged Magpies.  As far as John and Jenny were concerned, it wasn't so much the prospect of seeing the Teddy Bears would be having their picnics but rather whether the heavy sleet would turn to snow!

Old Zafarraya Road  15th February

Wood Lark Lullula arborea seen at the bottom of the old Zafarraya road (PHOTO: John Wainwright)

A very dull day, with sleet and heavy rain later-

As we had a couple of hours to spare we decided - albeit rather dull and threatening rain - to go up to the old Zafarraya road area.

Lots of Spotless Starlings lined the power lines as we turned off at km16, we parked and got the cameras ready, hoping for the Bramblings to be here, to be snapped.

Just one of the illusive Bramblings Fringilla montifringilla (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
As we drove down the track Mistle Thrushes, Chaffinches and a few Black Redstarts were noted then a huge flock of finches descended on the track to the small puddles.  Searching through the finches we found Chaffinches, Linnets and at least five Bramblings along with a solitary Great Tit.  A Robin flew out of the trees into the field and two Crested Larks were seen here also.

Robin Erithacus rubecula (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Moving down the hill three Calandra Larks were spotted, and in the trees, scores of Corn Buntings
perched until we reached their location.  After turning right more Corn Buntings were seen as well as a family of Magpies, and as we drove down to the ford a large number (twenty one in fact) Magpies were counted in and amongst the grasses along with White Wagtails, Blackbirds, Mistle Thrushes and Crested Larks.  We parked at the ford and had a wander among the bushes, here we found two Woodlarks, Black Redstarts, a Robin and in the trees at the back we saw several Azure-winged Magpies.  From here we drove another kilometre or so picking up Rock Buntings, Thekla Larks, a Little Owl and, amazingly, our first Giant Orchid (Himantoglossum longibracteatum) of the year.

Giant Orchid Himantoglossum longibracteatum
(PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Passing a small cluster of trees we noted Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Chaffinches, Bramblings, a Mistle Thrush and a dozen or more Corn Buntings.  The temperature was dropping very quickly now and a huge black cloud dumped an enormous amount of sleet on us, so it was back to the Casa and light the log-burner.

Mistle Thrush Turdus viscivorus (PHOTO: John Wainwright)
Just goes to show what can be found in a very short time if you plan ahead and know your local patch.

Check out the accompanying website at http://www.birdingaxarquia.weebly.com for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information.

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