Friday, April 03, 2015

Spain Day 1

Temp - 14C/20C - Occasional cloud and hazy - Wind S @ 8 mph

A very welcome week away in Mijas at my best mate Dave's villa and after our late arrival and subsequent late night, plus today of course being Good Friday I decided on an easy start to the holiday. In fact I spent the entire morning watching an amazing visible migration from the comfort of Dave's patio around 1000ft up in the hills near Mijas, Fuengirola.

Spanish Festoon
To start with two Crossbills were singing from a nearby cedar tree and it wasn't long before I'd bagged my first Barn Swallow and Red-rumped Swallows of the year. A chorus from above alerted me to well over 200 Common Swift passing through in the morning haze, shortly followed by a couple of House Martin. Another familiar call and at least a half dozen Bee-eater down below heading inland off the Mediterranean. A Booted Eagle drifted north over Mijas and both Serin and Sardinian Warbler kept me company throughout my watch, plus a single Cattle Egret among a few cows down below on the scrub land and occasional calls of Red-legged Partridge. Many butterflies on the wing, mostly Spanish Festoon and Wall but the occasional unidentified one floated past.

Corn Buntings around El Torcal
In the afternoon Dave decided to take us on an hours drive across to El Torcal, despite my warnings that the place would be rammed. The Spanish just love their holiday days! It was, in fact extremely rammed and so we decided to drive a little further on and take a walk in less crowded company until the place quietened down a little. The morning haze had dissipated to produce a very springlike afternoon and several Corn Buntings were singing away along the track. At least seven Griffin Vulture appeared over the mountains, along with a couple of Kestrel in display flight. A constant passage of Barn Swallow and at least twenty or so Bee-eaters passed overhead. Several Crested Lark were along the track often flying high up in full song.

Griffon Vulture - Constant movement over the rock formations
El Torcal de Antequera is a nature reserve in the Sierra del Torcal mountain range located south of the city of Antequera. It is known for its unusual landforms, and is one of the most impressive karst landscapes in Europe. The area was designated a Natural Site of National Interest in July 1929, and a Natural Park Reserve of about 17 square kilometres was created in October 1978.

Rock Bunting - Humbug head!
The drive up to the summit produced Hoopoe and Ring Ouzel and I have to say that despite still being extremely busy we had a very lucrative visit. At the mirador (viewpoint) some excellent views of Griffon Vultures passing overhead and just below one of several Black Redstart during our visit. Around the nature centre a pair of Rock Buntings posed well for photographs and Blue Rock Thrush were everywhere, although mostly distant!

Black Redstart plentiful at El Torcal
We took the 3km walk, which was very hard going and pretty noisy, the Spanish aren't known for their ability to hold a quiet conversation but the wildlife was still around with more Black Redstarts, Rock Bunting, Chaffinch, Goldfinch and a couple of Iberian Ibex. The drive down from the summit had a few more Griffon Vulture circling and a single Pallid Swift.

Iberian Ibex at El Torcal
Back at the villa in the evening a welcome jacuzi, followed by a pre birthday BBQ and to top off a very enjoyable first day a purring Turtle Dove and calling Scops Owl in the scrub land just below the villa, its still calling as I post. What a great way to end my 57th year on gods earth!