Friday, 26 April 2019

Ventas de Zafarraya & Area

Friday 26 April

Dancing Club concluded and I was out of the door like a demon possessed to head up the mirador  at Ventas de Zafarrya on the Malaga - Granada border.  Arriving at the car park, 862m above sea level, there was not a cloud in the sky and the sun was beating some very welcome warmth with only the merest hint of a breeze.  Not exactly ideal weather conditions or the time of the day fr productive birding but I was, nevertheless, made welcome by both Collared Doves and a Blackbird.

Distant Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros hiding in a shady tree
Off towards the old railway tunnel where I met a number of feeding Crag Martins  and the occasional House Sparrow messing about at the tunnel entrance.  Immediately through and I picked up a lovely male Blue Rock Thrush on top of the rocks above the tunnel and then the call and sight of the first Choughs.  Not so many at this time as I expect the majority of the breeding population were either away foraging or sitting tight on soon-to-be-hatched eggs.  A pair of Goldfinches crossed the track and then I came upon a male Linnet busily feeding a well-grown youngster near the top of an almond tree.  Finally, a first Stonechat of the month but having seen one I promptly saw another handful!  Working my way back to the car I cam across a male Black-Redstart resting in a shady tree to try and escape the heat.

What to do?  Head off to the woods at El Robledal where there was bound to be some shade and, with luck, finally find both Blue Tit and a woodpecker or two. House Martins as I drove through the village and Spotless Starlings working my way along the track towards the picnic site at El Robledal.  Wood Pigeon and the largest flock, maybe a score or more, of Rock Doves that I have seen for a while.  A couple of Chaffinches were moving about but not the hoped for target birds but, on the other hand, I did stop and listen to the European Cuckoo close by with its distinctive song.  That's Cuckoo and Swallow so summer must surely have arrived!

Rather than straight back to the main road and on to the "Magpie Woods" I decided to take the nearby track over the mountain which leads to the little laguneta above Alhama de Granada.  First time I have been here for a couple of years and forgot how pretty this site is.  From the hide in the woods I picked up Coot, Moorhen and Pochard on the water and then drove round to the main hide opposite the venta.  From here I also added Little Grebe, Mallard and a single Little Ringed Plover which seemed to be exploring a floating mass of weed.

Distant Nuthatch Sitta europaea
However, before taking this last link I took a look at the adjacent picnic area which was blocked to cars due to recent heavy rain leaving huge, muddy ditches far too deep for a car to pas. However, I walked into this open woodland area full of dead and decaying trees and was immediately rewarded with a couple of foraging Nuthatch.  I suspect they had a nest nearby and then, wonder of wonders, a Blue Tit was filling the binoculars lenses.  Finally, a Robin and then a Mistle Thrush as I crosses the dam towards the second hide as above.

Nothing to add from a walk into the nearby copse but yet another close singing Cuckoo and over the water feeding House Martins and Barn Swallows.  Leaving the laguneta to drive back to the Magpie Woods I noticed that a Grey Wagtail had arrived on the dam wall.

Just before the woods I took a right turn and drove down to the arable fields and stat of the hill up to Salar.  This little detour produced a couple of Corn Bunting and, at last, the much-searched for Azure-winged Magpie.  I was by now more than happy to call it a day and as I drove through the wood, having also found a Calandra Lark on the road passing through the arable fields, a pair of Red-legged Partridge were waiting to cross the road.  So, exactly four hours after arriving I was once more back at the Ventas de Zafarraya, having finally recorded 32 species including three new for the year.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Pochard, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Moorhen, Coot, Little Ringed Plover, Rock Dove, WoodPigeon, Collared Dove, Cuckoo, Calandra Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Grey Wagtail, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Blue Tit, Nuthatch, Azure-winged Magpie, Chough, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Corn Bunting.

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

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