Thursday, September 19, 2013

Cantera los Arenales

Temp - 24C/27C - Clear - Wind S @ 6 mph

On Thursday morning Dave decided that he'd quite like to take Dee and I up above Mijas and into the surrounding sierras, an area he'd recently walked with the local ramblers. The area in question starts at a disused quarry Cantera los Arenales and from here, where thankfully the temperatures are several degrees lower, you make a steep climb up through the scrub and into the Pine forests. Although only a few around today, It's worth noting that this is a popular mountain bike area, so it's worth keeping your wits about you!

Record Shot of one of six Honey Buzzard passing through.
A pretty quiet start to begin, a lone Kestrel over the quarry, but it wasn't long after entering the forested area that things began to improve. The first bird of note was a single Rock Bunting, which flew up into the pines from a rocky crevice, sadly not hanging around long enough to be photographed. As we made our way further into the forest a noisy Jay could be heard from deep within, one or two Coal Tits were singing from the tree tops and a Wren was seen skulking low in the vegetation. Small groups of birds then began to emerge and during one stop to investigate, a small group of Long-tailed Tits had a least two Crested Tit within.

Short-toed Eagle over Hoya de Malaga
More small flocks of foraging birds to be found and these included good numbers of Chaffinch with little gems within, the best of which were Firecrest and Short-toed Treecreeper. At around 1000ft the paths open up to produce stunning views across the Hoya de Malaga and it wasn't long before the first large Raptors of the day appeared. Our attention was first drawn to a couple of Ravens harassing a large bird, which turned out to be a Booted Eagle, one of three seen during our walk. A couple of Short-toed Eagle next, a surprise Red Kite, followed soon after by the superb sight of six Honey Buzzard, which enjoyed the thermals before moving off south, a great raptor migration spectacle!

Clouded Yellow - Just prior to liftoff!
Before long it was also apparent that the area was an excellent habitat for butterflies and dragonflies with Swallowtail, Small Copper, Common Blue, Clouded Yellow, Large White, Silver Studded Blue, Grayling and Wall Brown all recorded.

Booted Eagle
After dropping back down towards the quarry a smaller dark looking raptor came shooting in low, and before moving off high into the sun I managed a brief close up in the bins. At first I was a little unsure but having since sent an image I captured while the bird was high up to my birding guru JR back in the UK, the general consensus is Black Kite.

Black Wheatear - An Andalusian 1st
Finally, an Andalusian first for me just prior to arriving back at the car! Mountain bikers do have their uses when it comes to birding it seems, as without them these birds may well have gone unnoticed. The birds in question were a couple of Black Wheatear, which flew up from the quarry workings after being flushed, perching nicely for several minutes and enabling me to obtain several record shots, a great end to a good day.