Axarquia Bird Group Monthly Visit
Thursday 21 February
It seemed a good idea at the time to visit the old railway track above Ventas de Zafarraya with a follow-on to he woods of El Robledal until we actually arrived! Passing Barn Swallows, Collared Doves, House Sparrows and Spotted Starlings as we climbed up to the pass I arrived a little early and decided to take a walk up to the tunnel before anybody else was about. What a mistake to make! Even with extra layers on it was absolutely freezing in the bitterly cold strong wind. So, with the arrival of the other eight participants, it was decided to work the opposite way round and visit the woods first where, at least, there would be some shelter. A question of re-arranging transport then, along with Elena and Steve Powell plus Mary-Ann Murphy from Frigiliana, Marcus and Liz Rootes from Competa, Gery Collins and Louise Gray from Salobrena and Malcolm Austin and myself from Lake Vinuela, the short journey get under way.
No sooner were we making our way along the track tan we had a Black Redstart followed by a Stonechat and couple Serins feeding with a pair of Rock Buntings. The second car picked up a Magpie whilst we all stopped to admire both a Corn Bunting and Southern Grey Shrike atop neighbouring large bushes. A Red-legged Partridge "paddled" along at the side of the track but the predominant bird at this point was the Jay with at least four individual s between the main road and the parking area - where logging was under way and much of the usual area being used to deposit the removed pine trees. A couple of Mistle Thrushes and a single Song Thrush put in an appearance and then it was up and away into the woods to walk an anti-clockwise trail.
In the event, the morning very much turned into a session of passerines or, for some, lots of "LBJs". First Blue and Great Tits in the presence of many Chaffinches and then both Nuthatch and a small number of Firecrests. A Green Woodpecker "flashed" through the back of the trees and then we were finding both Coal and small parties of Long-tailed Tits. Almost back to the cars and we heard calling then picked up a Crossbill with more Nuthatches along with a trio of Greenfinches. A distant Short-toed Treecreeper was seen but no sooner had we started to make our way back along the track to take the right-hand turning towards the pantaneta above Alhama de Granada when we stopped to see yet another, closer, Firecrest. No sooner seen along with a passing small charm of Goldfinches than Mary-Ann looked in the neighbouring tree to identify a lovely Crested Tit. Whilst watching the bird to see where next it would reappear a Short-toed Treecreeper decided to join in the act and wander up the same tree. In future visits this tree will hence-forth be known as the "Mary-Ann tree" by way of reference to the area!!!
The track to the above lake produced Wood Pigeons and a female Kestrel but whilst stopping to check out more Goldfinches Steve looked out of the other side of the car where the Chaffinches were feeding and was straight on to a rather lovely Brambling. Only a small mixed flock but, nevertheless, great to see that we still have a few of these finches with us in Spain prior to their return to Scandinavia. Finally, another (female) Green Woodpecker crossed the track immediately ion front of us before reaching the water.
The view from the venta side of the pantaneta produced a different set of birds with a handful of Cormorants, a couple of Little Grebes, and a small number of Mallard, Pochard. and Coots. In addition, we had a single Moorhen, White Wagtail and yet more Long-tailed Tits along with a couple of Chiffchaffs and a Blackbird. Meanwhile, above the water,were scores of feeding Barn Swallows, House Martins and Crag Martins but we were unable to identify either Sand martin or Red-rumped Swallow amongst these birds.
Leaving the pantaneta to make our way back to Ventas de Zafarraya for a Menu del Dia and had a quartet of Azure-winged Magpies cross the road when I happened to mention to Steve to slow down as he left the first set of trees as there would be a Little Owl resting on the rock at he bottom on his side of the car. After much banter and queries as to whether or not I was prepared to put it in writing, we approached the said rock and I said "Stop, there's the Little Owl on the first rock." Not just one but a pair of Little Owls which, I suspect, use this as their day-time roost, not ten metres from the road.
And with that we headed off for our meal having recorded a very respectable 45 species
during the morning. Nothing at Ventas de Zafarraya so the Choughs, Black Wheatears, Blue Rock Thrushes and Rock Sparrows will have to wait for another day.
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