Friday, April 28, 2023

πŸ“– πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ Sierra de Loja ~ Spain 28/04/2023

πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ Friday 28th April 2023 πŸŒ€ 25C ~ Wind SE @ 20MPH ~A day out at Sierra de Loja with Pete Worthy one of the Brandon Marsh Conservation Team members I worked with back in Warwickshire currently over on holiday. The unprecedented April heatwave continues as Cordoba breaks the all-time April record of 37.6C. It was a little cooler up in the mountains but we still experienced temperatures of 25C. (35C at ground level) An often strong breeze also brought a welcoming cooling effect.

Sierra de Loja is a limestone massif and its highest point is Sierra Gords at 1,671 metres. It is also an open and beautiful but remote and sparse place. In winter it is covered in snow and ice. The landscape consists of a few trees, low-lying scrub and bushes but is mainly short, dry grass, and rocky terrain, the scenery is simply stunning and the birding can be very rewarding, although I had a feeling the windy conditions would make things a little challenging today. You access the track that leads up to the top at the Los Abades service area exit off the A92 road to Granada.

After coffee & croissant at the services, we began along the dirt track investigating the woodland area before beginning our ascent. Here a couple of calling Western Bonelli's Warblers remained elusive and also here Serin, Goldfinch, Mistle ThrushCrested Tit, Chaffinch and Azure-wing Magpie, now renamed Iberian Magpie, which seems much less colourful to me!

Southeastern Spanish Ibex (now reclassified)

After clearing the woodland the initial ascent produced a couple of Iberian Ibex, Thekla Lark, a constant today and Common Swift before we reached our first stop at the quarry, some 1500ft.

Pied Flycatcher ~ tucked away in the vegetation.

A walk around the quarry, which has now been fenced off, produced StonechatBlack Wheatear, more Thekla Lark our first Red-billed Choughs of the day along with a few Jackdaws and a surprise Pied Flycatcher. A group of Spotless Starlings were nesting in the crevices and as ever Red-legged Partridges were scurrying around.

Rock Bunting ~ My favourite bunting!

A stop/start affair as per normal, picking up Northern WheatearRock Bunting and Black-eared Wheater, one of seven seen today before we paused at the 'fossil cave' for a snack and to get the scopes out for a scan. 

Smart-looking Rock Sparrow

A couple of Kestrels and a small group of Rock Sparrows were chattering away before we finally located a smart-looking individual on the rocks. A group of Crag Martins were busily scouting the area and scanning the cliff tops a few Blue Rock Thrush, several Black Redstarts and more Chough. All found by sight as since my last visit in November two huge turbines have been erected and the noise was drowning out any chance of hearing birdcalls! 

Singing Orphean Warbler making use of the hawthorn cover!

At the Charca Negra turn, we headed down to what I refer to as the 'Hawthorn Oasis' an unlikely area of Hawthorn, today in full blossom but providing a berry feast for migrating Ring Ouzels in the autumn. Two Woodchat Shrikes and a singing Orphean Warbler, along with Linnet, Corn Bunting, more Rock Sparrows, Chough and Black Wheatear.

Another Black-eared Wheatear on the descent

Another scope session picked up at least six distant and high Griffon Vultures, the wind playing its part here but nothing more of interest before we began our descent. The descent was much of the same, unfortunately dipping on the sought-after Common Rock Thrush and stopping at the lower quarry for Spectacled Warbler and Dartford Warbler only produced the latter. Heard but not seen today Hoopoe and Cuckoo but an excellent visit in good company nonetheless. 

Thekla Larks ~ A constant companion at Sierra de Loja

Even in the windy conditions, a few butterflies to be found ~ Knapweed Fritillary

Two Woodchat Shrike today

The attractive-looking Red-legged Partridge

Province Orange-Tip ~ A very colourful and flighty species

Panoptes Blue ~ A tiny butterfly and a 1st for me!