Monday 19 June 2017

Birding in Andujar, Jaen Province

Friday 16 June

Collected by my friend Derek Etherton so that we could drive up to a lovely spot in the hills a few kilometres north of Andujar in Jaen Province, one of the best sites for finding the Lynx at the right time of the year.  A very journey in very warm weather with the outside ambient temperature reaching 42 by early afternoon!  The main sightings on the drive north via Cordoba were Buzzard, Black Kite and Raven with other sightings being replicated once we had arrived.  In addition, a stop at the local Visitors Centre produced a happy Turtle Dove singing happily away from the top of a dead tree immediately opposite the car park.

One of two Little Owls Mochuelo Comun Athene Atthis
With the reception not yet open at our hotel, we took a drive down to the beautiful local river Jandular set in most beautiful surroundings and were adding Azure-winged Magpies by the score or more.  We also found (Common) Magpie along with Woodpigeons then started to record the usual summer birds including both Barn and Red-rumped Swallow along with Blackbird, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow and Goldfinch.  Once at the dam where the House Martins were nesting and feeding we also added a Grey Wagtail and a Green Woodpecker as we made our way back to the hotel.

Red-rumped Swallows Golondrina Daurica Hirundo daurica on the wires
Having checked in, had a siesta followed by a swim, we set off to drive down a country track in the hope of finding the breeding Whinchat that we had been told about before departing.  No such luck.  But we also had Bob and Lynn Carr in the car who were also staying with us at the hotel.  What we did find, apart from the swallows and House Martins, were very many Woodchat Shrikes, both adult and juvenile.  A handful of Hoopoes were recorded along with a couple of Little Owls and Jackdaw.  Needless to say, there were many more Azure-winged Magpies and a fair number of their common cousins, the Magpie.  Lovely to see not just individual Red-legged Partridges but also family groups with up to a dozen little balls of fluff scurrying along with their parents.  Many Corn Buntings and as well as Greenfinch along with a small flock of Serin before we found a single Great Spotted Woodpecker.

One of very many Red Deer Cervus elaphus does seen on the journey down the valley
And so back to the hotel for a very late dinner and even later call to bed.

Saturday 17 June

Up early for the 8.30 start of the Andalucia Bird Society's field visit to the area under the superb leadership of local guide and ABS member Jose Luis Sanchez.  Nine of us were to spend a fabulous day enjoying the beauty of the hills and valleys as well as seeing some wonderful birds.  But, being very hot, we arrived back at the hotel, our starting point, at 2pm for an afternoon rest before setting off once again at 7pm for three hours spent enjoying the absolutely beautiful river scenery that we had visited yesterday afternoon.

Travelling in just four cars and well spread out we had very many sightings of the numerous local Red Deer and a small herd of Fallow Deer.  On our left as we made our long way down the very rough track to the reservoir and its dam we had close views of the protected fighting bulls; magnificent beasts.  House Martin and Barn Swallows as soon as we left the hotel and not long before we added Blackbird and Bee-eater.  The first of very, very many Golden Orioles was heard and then seen.  We, similarly, added Woodpigeon, Collared Dove and Magpie but had to wait a "considerable" time before the numerous Azure-winged Magpies put in their expected appearance.  Not so much the two Little Owls but the handful of Chough that aught our attention early on before adding Woodchat Shrike and Goldfinch.  On the opposite field there was a pair of Mistle Thrush and foraging Crested Lark whilst the odd Hoopoe flew past.

Red Deer fawn Red Deer Cervus elaphus not far from Mum
Moving  well on down the track and noticing the Red-legged Partridges we eventually came to a long stop where we watched very close White-rumped Swifts feeding and returning to their nests in a culvert under track.  These birds use discarded nests of Red-rumped Swallows which we also recorded.  Then a short walk to an observation point and, whilst we saw some very anxious Magpies, we could not locate the potential resting pace of a Lynx.  Meanwhile, overhead, we had first a visit from a handful of Griffon Vultures before a couple of Black Vultures put in an appearance.  However, the sight of the morning was first a magnificent female Spanish Imperial Eagle and just a few minutes later she was joined by the smaller male.  The pair remained with us for ages and we even managed to pick up Iberian Grey Shrike and Dartford Warbler at the same sight.

On reaching the dam wall of the depleted reservoir we saw hundreds of House Martins resting on the shaded stone work whilst they and both Red-rumped and Barn Swallows were in the air.  We also had the occasional Crag Martin fly past the cliff face opposite and also picked up a Blackbird and a couple of Jays.  A pair of juvenile Mallards were on a small pool below and in the tunnel at the far end of the dam we saw all four of the Bat species that rested within.  Amazing to see that a large bat the size of a Blackbird and with, potentially, a 40mm wing span could fit into such a small hole with an approximate diameter of 25mm.

The distant shots of the Spanish Imperial Eagle Aguila Imperial Iberica Aquila adalberti and then to rest on top of the tree.

The return journey produced first a Common Kestrel and then an adult Golden Eagle immediately overhead and it was 2pm by the time we returned to our hotel for an afternoon siesta before setting out once again for an evening at the river.

Just the seven of us on the evening trip, setting off at 7pm and with Olly already on site and finding, amongst others, Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper, Blue and Great Tits, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Kingfisher.  Once we had joined Olly and parked up near the outflow from the dam we soon added both Grey and White Wagtail,  A pair of Kingfishers were nesting under the bridge upon which we were standing so they were in constant sight of us.  A small number of Bee-eaters were present and then we found a distant small flock of Rock Sparrows.

As the light faded and the temperature dropped to a "mere" 36 or s having reached a high of 43C on the drive down, so the birds came out to play - well feed actually.  Common Swifts arrived from very high above and there was a constant supply of very viewable Golden Orioles.  A Great Spotted Woodpecker flew into the tree immediately opposite us and then a Green Woodpecker was seen to cross the river.  But, at last, as well as distant flight sightings, I got a decent view of the Hawfinch that I had been trying to find.  With light fading I found a Nightingale under a tree on the far bank and no sooner had I pointed out the bird than it was joined by a male Sardinian Warbler.  Derek and Jose Luis also managed to pick up a calling Blackcap.

Driving back to the hotel we stopped to look in awe at  stag Red Deer with spread antlers containing at least seven spurs.  The animal was just content to stand and feed.  Strange to recall that it was feeding immediately next to one of the stone-constructed barbecues!  Should have brought the charcoal and some chips!  Needless to say, it was just after 10 when we arrived back in the dark and then got to work on the shandies and en evening meal before, yet again, a late retirement for the night.

Sunday 18 June

Yet another Little Owl Mochuelo Comun Athene Atthis
Having said our goodbyes, Derek and I accompanied by Olly took a drive a little further north to take a look at the Pantano del Rumblar near the hilltop village of Banos de la Encina.  Starting off with a Kestrel we soon added both Magpie and numerous Azure-winged Magpies along with Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Blackbird and Spotless Starlings.  As we drove through the olive groves approaching the water, apart from the scores of Azure-winged Magpies and a lone Magpie, we added both Woodcat Shrike and Hoopoe.

The dam, like others we had seen, was obviously much in need of water and with very steep banks.  Overhead we had House Martin, Barn Swallow and Common Swift plus the occasional Crag Martin.  Crossing the dam we then followed the track to its end but were unable to rejoin the water at any point.  The olive groves offered up most of the birds already seen but we did manage to add both Crested and Thekla Lark.  A close sighting of yet another Little Owl was very enjoyable and on the return journey we managed to find a Turtle Dove.  At the far end we saw a handful of Griffon Vultures over the mountain tops.

And so ended a lovely week-end which only left the drive back to the coast for a late lunch at home before Derek continues on to his home above Malaga and the knowledge that we had recorded almost sixty species during the visit.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Red-legged Partridge, Black Kite, Griffon Vulture, Black Vulture, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Golden Eagle, Buzzard, Kestrel, Woodpigeon, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Little Owl, Swift, White-rumped Swift, Kingfisher, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Grey Wagtail, White Wagtail, Nightingale, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Dartford Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper, Golden Oriole, Iberian Grey Shrike, Woodchat Shrike, Jay, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Chough, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Hawfinch, Corn Bunting.

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

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