Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Andalucia Day 4

Greeted by early morning fog we headed back off into the mountains this time to the area of Sierra Norte. Once we had risen above the fog we began to wind our way through some superb dehesa habitat offering tantalizing glimpses of Little Owl, more Azure-winged Magpie proving very elusive to get a good look at as they flashed away through the Holm Oaks offering only brief glimpses darting between thick leafy branches just out of reach. A large over flying skein of birds prompted an impromptu roadside stop before we determined that they were Cormorant heading east. Further up at our first watch point we were assaulted by the screams of a pair of Jay.
Had we known what awaited us at the ‘Wolf’ watch point we would perhaps not have lingered so long. We could see as we approached numbers of Griffon Vulture in the air but after a steady scan across the Sierra Morena we realized that there were many more on a nearby hillside and a further group soaring to the northwest of us.

Common Stonechat, male

As we waited and watched more and more took to the air and began to come closer to the viewpoint, then a shout to look in the opposite direction as another large raptor soared toward us, then another, not Vultures but Eagles. With all eyes on these two birds they were quickly identified as a juvenile Spanish Imperial Eagle and a Golden Eagle. We watched in amazement as they circled above our heads and over into the melee of Griffon Vulture soaring closer and closer, some of the lower vultures at eye level height out over the dehesa, another superb highlight of the trip. Added spice a few minutes later when a single Black Vulture was picked out amongst the distant group which once located was easily separable from the Griffons by the obvious colour of the feet.

Griffon Vulture

A 'Grey' Fox seen by half the group making its way down one of the steep grassy slopes was an extra bonus for those that saw it.
Our picnic lunch in a tiny picnic area by a small stream that we would never have found without local knowledge gave us a well earned rest although Grey Wagtail and a splendid Hawfinch hidden amongst a tangle of branches were ample reward to those that kept the optics close by.At this point the group split up to wander along some of the wooded pathways. I took the opportunity to walk back up the road a way to try and get some pictures of another family group of Azure-winged Magpie we had flushed as we drove down the hill. Perhaps 5-10 fed amongst dense young trees in a walled area that had once been the garden of a substantial, but now run down, water mill. With patience I was able to take some record shots of this beautiful bird as one or two individuals fed by the roadside and around the tree bases. Here Black Redstart and Stonechat offered further close photo opportunities, with patience and some of the group found Short-toed Treecreeper. A Great Spotted Woodpecker called nearby but was not seen.

Black Redstart
Azure-winged Magpie
Our final destination provided perhaps the strangest landscape of the trip in the form of the stone peaks of Cerro del Hierro, an old mineral quarry filled with caves and scrubby growth. Within minutes of arrival a male Blue Rock Thrush, the first of three, was picked out on the edge of one of the pinnacle shaped rocks. Black Redstart were popping up everywhere and apart from the ubiquitous House Sparrow were the commonest bird here. Again the group split and went separate ways, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was the unexpected result for one party, Crested Lark, Meadow Pipit and some lively Serin were the best I could manage. Despite an absence of Rock Bunting our main target for this site the day ended with a group picture followed by a brief stop for coffee and beer (and Cattle Egret flying to roost) then a super evening meal with our guides and their employer.
What follows is a series of record shots of Spanish Imperial Eagle, too busy watching to get anything better I'm afraid to say.
Spanish Imperial Eagle

Spanish Imperial Eagle

Spanish Imperial Eagle


Anonymous said...

Are Grey Fox introduced into Spain? I thought they were a nearctic species.

alan tilmouth said...

Didn't see it John and perhaps it was a mis-transaltion Dutch to English as it was the Dutch that saw it. Red Fox are common, perhaps it was a 'grey' Red Fox?