Monday 29 August 2016

Montes de Malaga and El Torcal

Monday 29 August

At last, a chance to get back to Spanish birding with friends after a three-month break. Up in what seemed like the middle of the night, very black but still warm, to meet up with Derek and Barbara Etherton along with Linda Roberts at Colmenar and then it was off up the Montes de Malaga arriving at the central car park near the little museum before 7.30 where the light in the valley was still slightly muted and in the shade and a chance to, hopefully, catch up on some of the smaller passerines that seem to have eluded thus far in 2016.

The large tree on the slope opposite the car park seemed to be the favourite eating place with a couple of Nuthatches seen along with many Blue Tits and the odd Great Tit.  However, ere long it soon became apparent that this was also the feeding tree of the local Firecrests and a few Chiffchaffs were spotted in the adjacent small tree.bush.  Not so much the trio of Wood Pigeons that flew over but the noisy groups of marauding Crossbills that were to certainly be the dominant bird of this area. Next up a good-sized flock of Linnets and having seen nothing in the large tree below the car park we made our way down the steps and the short walk to the picnic area and back.

No sooner at the bottom, having seen our first juvenile Robin and an adult male Blackbird on the way with Derek and Barbara adding a Coal Tit, we came across a family party of Long-tailed Tits, always a delight to see.  Meanwhile Jenny and Derek managed to find a rather absorbed Jay busy feeding in the shaded branches of a distant tree.  Chaffinches were added and in the bare branches at the top of the above-mentioned large tree a Great Spotted Woodpecker looking for a tasty breakfast. Returning to the cars having recorded more Crossbills and Robins we found that there were still plenty of Chiffchaffs and Firecrests about along with a pair of Sardinian Warblers.

The drive up to the relatively nearby high vantage point, delicately manoeuvring our cars past the fallen tree across the track, found us looking at yet more Crossbills; they seemed to be everywhere.  A Melodious Warbler put in a brief appearance before we took the path down the valley and the help of those with excellent hearing soon managed to pick out Short-toed Treecreeper, lovely close Coal Tits and a pair of Crested Tits.  Not bad to have seen five tit species in the space of about an hour and not a feeding station in site; all in their natural habitat.  As an added bonus we watched a handsome Booted Eagle drift over and, on returning to the cars, also found a Short-toed Eagle high above us.

Breakfast called.  So having driven back to Colmenar to pick up Linda's car we stopped at ta local poligno for juice, coffee and a very tasty roll.  On then to El Torcal in the hope that it would not be too hot, too late it was, and a chance to pick up some warblers.  Not a lot of success but we did ad Black Redstart and Blue Rock Thrush along with very many Common Swifts feeding overhead and the odd House Martin.  We had already come across Crag Martins over the cliffs as we started up the drive from the main road plus the occasional Barn Swallow but no raptors.  A stop on the way up produced a Stonechat and that appeared to be it.  Linda was the only one to see the Green Woodpecker that crossed the road in front of her car as we the El Torcal turn, presumably disturbed and then put up by our two cars in front and it was she that was to see the only Alpine Swift on view.

But, as is usually the case, it all happened.  In the cars and actually starting to drive out of the car park when a Rock Bunting flew up into a small tree next to the exit and happily remained until we had all had a good view.  Similarly, a stop on the way down as a Northern Wheatear dashed across the road in front of Derek's car led to the the production of not only lots of Common Swifts but also at least a trio of Alpine Swifts and a pair of distant Griffon Vultures.  Seems almost a shame to add both House Sparrow and Collared Dove!

A lovely morning in great company and much more birding to look forward to during the rest of the week.

Birds seen:
Griffon Vulture, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Alpine Swift, Common Swift, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Melodious Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Chiffchaff, Firecrest, Long-tailed Tit, Crested Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper, Jay, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Crossbill, Rock Bunting.

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