Thursday 25 May 2023

Birding Loja

Thursday 25 May

Another day's excellent birding with my friend, Mick Richardson which produced excellent results, including many new species for the year (12 out of the 62 species I recorded).  Today we concentrated on the area immediately around Mick's home with a relatively early morning visit upon the hill to the Cerro Hacho and then, following a coffee break in Loja itself, a drive ups to the top of the Sierra de Loja.  Finally, after a late sandwich, a short visit to the nearby Balsa de Regidor on the outskirts of Moraleda to check the water's birdlife.  Back home for a rest before starting on photographs and records with a farewell dinner at nearby Huetor Tajar to end my stay.

Approaching the Cerro Hacho we had Turtle Doves, a lovely Little Owl followed by the first of many Mistle Thrushes and then, upon parking the car, Blackbird, many Chaffinches and a few Woodpigeons. Starting our walk along the track through the long abandoned almond orchard we soon added Greenfinch, Great Tit, Serin and Wren before Mick heard the Western Orphean Warbler calling.  Patience was rewarded when the bird was sighted very near Ito us but only a poor record shot obtained.  Nevertheless, a lovely sight. 

Orphean Warbler Sylvia hortensis

Continuing on down the track a close male Sardinian Warbler before a pair of Hoopoe were seen below us.  Working our way back towards the car we added a lovely Bonelli's Warbler and I managed to find a Crested Tit well-hidden in a thick bush where upon Mick was able to find a second individual. Ere long we added both Short-toed Tree-creeper and Blue Tit before spotting the soaring Sparrowhawk above the mountain summit to our right.

Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melancocephala

On the wires above us we found two Crossbill and in the abandoned quarry below a Black Wheatear. Making our way back to the road a Rock Bunting and then a pair of Woodchat Shrikes.  Time to start our descent to the town of Loja adding a Montagu's Harrier, House Martins and Common Swifts.  Approaching our morning coffee stop, we added House Sparrow, Collared Dove, a pair of Common Kestrel and both Barn and Red-rumped Swallows.

It was whilst in the cafe that we met up with members of the local Guardia Civil who informed us that the track up the Sierra Loja was not closed earlier that usual; the closure only applied to National Parks in Andalucia and Loja did not have such an identification.  No question, therefore, where we headed as soon as we left the cafe!

Rock Bunting Emberiza cia

Given that we were heading up the Sierra Loja later than would have been the case had we been aware of the situation, we made our way directly to the top and the favoured site for seeing a Rock Thrush. On the way ew noted Rock Bunting and many Thekla Larks plus a plentiful supply of Red-legged Partridges.

Rock Thrush Monticola saxatilis

During our stay trying to locate a Rock Thrush we found many Rock and House Sparrows plus a Corn Bunting, a few Black and Black-eared Wheatears, Black Redstart and Blue Rock Thrush. A small number of Linnets, Goldfinches and Greenfinches were moving about and we also had Crag Martins near the cliff face. We also saw a Griffon Vulture.

Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe Hispanic

The occasional Stonechat put in appearance as did Woodpigeon.  Above us not only Common (predominantly) and Pallid Swifts but also at least one Alpine Swift to bring a smile to our faces. It was as we started our, now slower, descent that we added Blackbird, more Red-legged Partridges and then both Jackdaw and Red-billed Chough as we approached the tree line.  Similarly, nearing the bottom we also added Turtle and Collared Dove, Iberian Magpies, Hoopoe and Great Tit.  Mick also heard the distant Bee-eaters and Orphean Warbler plus seeing a Short-toed Tree-creeper.

Next followed a quick visit to the old quarry where we found a Rock Bunting posing a the top of the tallest tree and a few feet below if our only Dartford Warbler of the day. Above us a few House Martins.

It may've been a tiring day but still mid-afternoon so we made a quick, short visit to the large irrigation lake known as the Balsa de Regidor on the outskirts of Moraleda.  Not a lot of bird life but, nevertheless, it was gratifying to find two successful clutches of Pochard ducklings on the water with their parents.  Also preset a Moorhen, Coot and a single Little Grebe. In the nearby vegetation and trees a calling Golden Oriole along with Chaffinch, Cetti's Warbler, Great Tit and Magpie.

Common Pochard Aythya ferina with ducklings


Following a light evening meal at a local bar we travelled back home and continued top to the wooded area in the hope that we might find a resting Nighjar as evening began to turn dark.  having stopped to listen for the churring we were then staked as an Eagle Owl flew low immediately on front of the car giving very clear sighting of plumage, etc.  What a special treat.  And to finish the evening we sat on the terrace listening to the local Red-necked Nighjars around the house.

Birds seen:

Pochard, Red-legged Partridge, Little Grebe, Griffon Vulture, Montagu's Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Turtle Dove, Eagle Owl, Little Owl, Red-necked Nightjar, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Common Swift, pallid Swift, Alpine Swift, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, House Martin, Wren, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Black-eared Wheatear, Rock Thrush, Blue Rock Thrush, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Cetti's Warbler, Orphean Warbler, Dartford Warbler, Sardinian Warbler, Bonelli's Warbler, Crested Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Short-toed Tree-creeper, Woodchat Shrike, Iberian Grey Shrike, Golden Oriole, Iberian Magpie, Magpie, Jackdaw, Chough, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Rock Sparrow, Chaffinch, Serin, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Crossbill, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting.

Orphean Warbler Sylvia hortensis
Serin Serinus Serinus

Crossbill Loxia curvirostral

Rock Thrush Monticola saxatilis

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