Friday 3 May 2019

Zafarraya and Sierra Loja

Tuesday 30 April

The last day f the month and a beautiful clear sky on a warm day as Marieke and I made a leisured way up to the mirador at Ventas de Zafarraya on our cross-country visit to the Sierra de Loja. Good job we did, not so much for the more common residents including Goldfinch and Serin but the breeding Crag Martins and then at least 50 Alpine Swifts making use of the large cave near the tunnel entrance.  A Black Wheatear put in an appearance and plenty of Choughs moving around the area but, perhaps, best of all was the unexpected Golden Oriole calling from below.

Then it was on to Loja via the Zafarrya country road recording Blackbird and Azure-winged Magpie on the way.  Corn Buntings on the fences and a  stop at the usual site found at least three pairs f newly-arrived Montagu's Harriers with the males busy collecting nesting material from below the Olive trees to take to females in the growing corn field.  As we left we watched both Magpie and Common Kestrel near the top of the track and before reaching the motorway we were also able to add a single Turtle Dove, Wood Pigeon and Chaffinch.

Newly-arrived male Montagu's Harrier Aguilucho Cenizo Circus pygargus
Once suitably refreshed it was off and up the track leading to the summit of the Sierra Loja.  Almost immediately House Martin, Mistle Thrush, Barn Swallow and Linnet and then a stop in the lower woods produced Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Crested Tit and Nuthatch.  Leaving the old quarry we saw our first Raven and then a stop to find the calling Short-toed Treecreeper and then the first of very many Red-legged Partridge observed during the day.

Northern Wheatear Collalba Gris Oenanthe oenanthe

Good sightings moving u the track of Azure-winged Magpie, Stonechat and both Thekla and Crested Larks before seeing our first Spotted Flycatcher of the year.  Then we were into "wheatear territory" but it was quite a while before we saw our first Northern Wheatear.  Marieke particularly wanted to see a Black-eared Wheatear and an individual was finally found on the aerial of the little cottage at the Charca de Negra.

Black-eared Wheatear Colalba Rubia Oenanthe hispanica

Our picnic lunch was taken at the pools just above which held a plentiful water supply and we were also privileged to see Rock Bunting, Stonechat, Rock Sparrow and heard a distant Cuckoo.  A pair of Mallard flew over and then another Northern Wheatear.

Rock Bunting Escribano Montesino Emberiza  cia
So on round to the back of the rock and up past the "Fossil Cave" adding Crag martin and more Spotless Starlings but no sign of summer Rock Thrush.  However, it was lovely to see a quartet of Lesser Kestrel and in the far distance three high Griffon Vultures.  Again, no Rock Thrush found when we retraced our steps and took the track up to and through the windmills.

Male Common Cuckoo Cuco Comun Cuculus canorus

Rather than descend by the the outward route we took the very long, bumpy track direct to Salar a journey of maybe 10 kilometres.  But, in the event, we came first across a Woodchat Shrike then very good views of a Common Cuckoo.  As we neared the the valley and the first sign of cultivation we added both Nightingale and a Black Redstart and then I stopped to look at a strange shape in a small dead tree.  That's a bird but all wrong for a Little Owl.  Closer observation revealed a resting Scops Owl.  That's not a bird, it's a dead twig or piece of wood suggested Marieke from the opposite side of the car.  So edging the car forward to get a better view, convince Marieke and get a photograph, the "twig" flew away!  The final sighting before reaching the town was of at least a dozen male Ibex.  We stopped and watched in amazement how the animals stood in front of a metre high fence and then simply jumped over using their hind legs as a springboard.

Two of the dozen male Ibex Capra pyrenaica
With that we stopped for a coffee in Salar then made our way home via the back road to Ventas de Zafarraya to complete the loop and also managed to add Jackdaw and a Calandra Lark whilst driving through the arable land before reaching the "Magpie Woods".  A lovely day in beautiful and unique scenery producing a final count of 48 species.

Birds seen:
Mallard, Griffon Vulture, Montagu's Harrier, Lesser Kestrel, Common Kestrel, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Turtle Dove, Collared Dove, Common Cuckoo, Scops Owl, Alpine Swift, Calandra lark, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Nightingale, Black Restart, Stonechat, Northern Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, Black Wheatear, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Spotted Flycatcher, Crested Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper, Golden Oriole, Woodchat Shrike, Azure-winged Magpie, Magpie, Chough, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting.

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

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