Saturday 8 October 2022

Ventas de Zafarraya

Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus

 Friday 7 October

Another lovely dry, warm and sunny start to the day as I collected Steve and Elena Powell and drove up to the old railway line at Ventas de Zafarraya.  There to welcome us a Collared Dove on the wire who refused to even look at us nevermind depart to pastures new.

Hardly had we set off than we had our first Black Wheatear of the morning and many more were to follow.  Half-way to the tunnel we stopped as Steve noted a Stonechat on the bank to our right whereas I was looking at the Dartford Warbler slightly to the left.  Natually (!), the Stonechat was ignored as we followed the movement of the Dartford Warbler with Steve doing his best to get a photo of the bird but, as you can imagine, the little fellow was having none of it as he moved quickly from landing to disappearing into the vegetation and then move on again.  Meanwhile, a pair of Sardinian Warblers put in a brief appearance and, again, many more were to be seen before our eventual departure.

Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucura

Once at the tunnel we began to get regular sightings of the local Crag Martins and the first Goldfinches and Black Redstarts were also noted.  Overhead that familiar sound followed by the sighting of a Chough.  Not so many about but regular appearances of individuals.  Another small charm of Goldfinches as we moved on up to the old ruins and, finally, a Blue Rock Thrush flew down and across the track to disappear below.

Distant male Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius

Making our way back towards the tunnel another Blue Rock Thrush resting on the bank above us followed by two more,  But our attention was drawn to the "fight" going on above us to our right.  It would appear that one of the Choughs had taken exception to the visiting Peregrine Falcon and was busy seeing it off as it continued to mob the falcon.  Honours even as the Chough depart away from us and the Peregrine Falcon returned towards its mountain territory.  A few minutes later Steve, who was now at the other side of the tunnel, saw the bird appear and pass very close to him.

Fun and games between the Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax and Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus

Then, nearing the mirador, a Griffon Vulture came into sight immediately in front and then passed over us. Take a few photos and then, looking ahead, watched as a further fourteen individuals followed the same flight pattern in single file coming, presumably, to rest on top of the high peak above the tunnel.

Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus

Back at the car park a Linnet was feeding below and also noted a handful of House Sparrows. Time for a coffee so taken the lanes, recording a Thekla Lark, through the very fertile plateau past the now arid irrigation pond we came to Zafarraya itself having passed a small flock of Linnets feeding at the roadside.  At the same point also a quartet of Crested Larks and a Blackbird crossed the road in front of us.

Linnet Carduelis cannabina

So ended a most enjoyable morning and although species numbers were low at 20, my word we saw some really special birds including the Dartford Warbler, Peregrine falcon and Griffon Vultures.

Birds seen:

Griffon Vulture, Peregrine Falcon, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Dartford Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Chough, House Sparrow, Serin, Goldfinch, Linnet.

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