Thursday 12 May 2022

Sierra Loja and the area around the Cacin Valley

Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa

Wednesday 11 May

Away in the dark so that I could make an early start climbing up the Sierra Loja in search of both Rock Thrush and the three local wheatears. Arriving in time to take the track up from the service station on the A92 at 7.50 I was immediately surrounded by House Sparrows and then a Sardinian Warbler crossed the entry track.  The first stop at the lower picnic site produced numerous Serins along with a few Wood Pigeon and many Barn Swallows. Passing Blackbirds and Chaffinches I soon arrived at the main quarry, nearly driving over the first two of very many to be seen Red-legged Partridges during the morning.  An early Rock Bunting and male Blue Rock Thrush suggested, I hoped, that I might have a productive morning.

So up the track passing Crested Lark and Stonechat until I reached the tree line and the first Choughs and Jackdaws. Now it was the Thekla Larks that put in a appearance along with the first and only Northern Wheatear.  A small flock of Spotless Starlings before arriving at the electricity sub-station where I encountered a Raven.

Record shot of Stonechat Saxicola torquatus

All relatively quiet for the next half-hour and nothing to see at the Charca Negra albeit the pools were very full.  It may have been suggesting a temperature of 16C but the strong cold wind did its best to convince you that it was much colder and keep the body warmer zipped up!  Stopping at the Fossil Cave I was able to watch the local Crag Martins making use of the site and perched on the very top above then a single, male Black-eared Wheatear; what a lovely sight.  On the grass to my right a pair of foraging Linnets and above me a passing male Kestrel.

Linnet Carduelis cannabina

The cliff face just beyond was to prove very productive.  First a couple of Black Wheatear quickly followed by Blue Rock Thrush and a handful of Rock Sparrows. A lone Griffon Vulture drifted away above me and then, after much searching, I finally found a female Rock Thrush.  Probably the same bird but it seemed intent on dropping from the cliff top to somewhere lower down and then reappearing; probably either nest building or awaiting the return of her partner.

Much time was spent on the top and before returning the Charca Negra so that I could also explore the northerly track but before arriving found a single Woodchat Shrike atop the cliffs.  As I finally decided, after well over three hours that it was time to head back to the service station to use the facilities before moving on, I picked up a female Black Redstart and back at the bottom of the mountain a handful of Rock Doves plus a couple of Collared Doves.  The visit was certainly noted for some lovely sightings of Black-eared Wheatears and no shortage of Rock Buntings today.

Distant shot of the Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator

Having eaten most of my picnic lunch I made my way via the A92 to the Cacin Valley area where, upon arrival at the extensive growing fields I wished to explore, soon added Collared Dove, House Sparrows and Barn Swallows.  Driving through the olive groves I picked up a quartet of Magpies and a single Corn Bunting.

There followed maybe twenty miles (32 km) of farm tracks which produced the occasional birds including Buzzard, Spotless Starlings, Crested Larks and even the occasional Wood Pigeon.  Back on the “proper” country lane I soon saw a Hoopoe fly across and then it was time to drive through El Turro and down to the Cacin reservoir.  Lots of Chaffinches about and even a Golden Oriole calling when I reached the bridge on the bend at the bottom.

Buzzard Buteo buteo through the car windscreen

On the water itself a number of both Mallard and Pochard along with Coots and a pair of Black-winged Stilt. A Marsh Harrier quartered along the far side of the water.  My final sightings as I headed away from the area were an Iberian Grey Shrike and a single Bee-eater.  Back home at 3.15 and ready for a late siesta!

A "cock of the rock" Red-legged Partridge Alectoris rufa

Birds seen:

Mallard, Pochard, Red-legged Partridge, Griffon Vulture, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Black-winged Stilt, Coot, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Hoopoe, Bee-eater, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Northern Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, Black Wheatear, Rock Thrush, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Sardinian Warbler, Golden Oriole, Woodchat Shrike, Iberian Grey Shrike, Magpie, Jackdaw, Chough, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Linnet, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting.

Still some snow on top of the sierras

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