Sunday 3 February 2019

Zafarraa and the Sierra Tejeda

Broad Leaf Iris Iris subbiflora
Saturday 3 February

Sunny, reasonably calm and the forecast a sunny day as I set out for the old railway track u at Venta de Zafarraya.  However, upon arrival the temperature had dropped to 2C, the wind was blowing a gale and light snow/frozen rain falling.  To make matters worse my arrival coincided with the meeting point of one of the local walking groups.  Not much point parking up so slowly drove up the track, through the tunnel and on to the old ruins before returning.  What a dearth of birdlife or any sort of life.  A handful of Chaffinches,  male Stonechat and a couple of Great Tits as I returned to  the mirador with overcast skies and contuing light snowfall.  Give u and go home where, at least the sun was shining on the coast?  Not at all; after all things could only get better - couldn't they?

Passing through the village I took a slight detour to visit the duck pond but found only a few "wild" Mallards amongst the domestic ducks and geese.  But other than a few House Sparrows all was deserted so on down to the "muck heap" and growing fields.  At first very quiet, even though the weather was improving and temperature now up to 4C where it remained till the afternoon when it reached the dizzy height of 5C at the woods of El Robledal.  A barren field held a few Greenfinch and Goldfinch as I drove down to the pond where I found a female Mallard and a White Wagtail.  However,  stopping on the way back to the main road  found a flock of 15 Mistle Thrushes busy feeding amongst the "left-overs" and then Crested Lark, Serin and Linnet.

Mistle Thrush Zorzal Charlo Turdus viscivorus

Nothing to report from the "Magpie Woods" so on to the cereal-growing fields in the hinterland.  Now here we did start to see some bird life once the first small flock of Calandra Larks and a couple of Black Redstarts had been found.  Feeding nearby both Sky, Crested Larks alongside a dozen or more Meadow Pipits and then the discovery of a handful of Short-toed Larks to really put a smile on my face.  Even a (common) Magpie sat in an old tree at the end of the fields. It was whilst stopping to check out the Magpie that I first noticed the movement a field back from the road.  Taking out the scope I found well in excess of 300 Greenfinches along withe the odd Goldfinch and Linnet and more Meadow Pipits.  Wow!

Meadow Pipit Bisbita Pratense Anthus pratensis

Setting off towards the old road up to Salar so that I could take the anti-clockwise circuit through the woods and stony moor I added a number of Corn Bumting and a Red-legged Partridge crossed the road in front of me and almost ended up on my dinner table!  Once through the woods and up to the small holdings I added many more White Wagtails and then a handful of Azure-winged Magpies.  A flock of a score or more Wood Pigeons flew over and I set about checking the many small flacks of Chaffinches.  Great news (luck?), I managed to find  male Brambling in with the third encounter. A few more Crested Larks then out on the stony terrain.

 Again, stopping just past the last farm house, that with the noisy wandering dog, I stopped to check a handful of small brown birds hidden just behind the edge of the road, on my side of the car.  Not just a trio of Rock Buntings but also a first Northern Wheatear of the year.  Only a hundred or so metres further on I finally found my Thekla Larks and a few more Azure-winged Magpies moving around near a score of more Spotless Starlings, the flock of which also contained at least two Common Starling.

Male Chaffinch Pinzon Vulgar Fringilla coelebs

With the skies now much clearer I moved on to the woods of El Robledal.  Stopping on the main track towards the picnic area I checked out the brown raptor atop the electricity pylon which turned out to be a Buzzard.  A Robin was moving around in the undergrowth but little else to see at the woods themselves.  However, stopping to once again check out the feeding finches as I exited the woods near the newly-restored cortijo, having seen another couple of Black Redstarts,  I not only found a good number of Chaffinches along with a few Goldfinch and Linnet but also another three Brambling in the large willow tree.  But the big surprise was to suddenly catch site of a lovely male Cirl Bunting on the bank immediately below me. Much as I waited, I could not encourage/wish the bird back into sight for a photo.

Stony terrain which produced both Rock Bunting and Northern Wheatear
So to the final leg of my journey as I set out for home; the mountain track relatively nearby that would take me down through the Sierra Tejada to Alcaucin and then on back to the coast.  Another Robin as I mad my way up past the last form and then the large flash of a white rump as a Jay moved away and down through the tree-covered sloe o my right.  A walk around the main picnic area produced a few more Chaffinches and Chiffchaff and then a quartet of Crossbill to end a long, cold but enjoyable day's birding.  And once down off the mountain I was once again in full sunlight, clear skies and a temperature of 16C.  There may have been few birds on show other then the large finch flocks but the 36 species recorded included 10 new records for the year.  It just goes to show, don't give up just because you get off to a bad start.  You just have to work a little harder for your birds.

Distant record shot of male Crossbill Piquituerto Comun Loxia curvirostra

Birds seen:
Mallard, Red-legged Partridge, Buzzard, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Calandra Lark, Short-toed Lark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Sky Lark, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Mistle Thrush, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Jay, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Common Starling, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Brambling, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Crossbill, Cirl Bunting, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting

Almond still in blossom

A different habitat to that on the other side of the mountain

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

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