November 2012 – Sierra de las Nieves

Recent storms did not deter us

Juliet and I joined five other ABS members on a field trip this morning and enjoyed six and a half hours of good birding and wonderful scenery.  We met at the car park at 09:30 and the weather was cloudy but it was kind to us as it remained dry throughout the day although the temperature on occasions was rather chilly.

We all initially walked around the area adjoining the car park.  There was heavy dew on the grass and the underlying soil was wet.  Our first bird species was a female Great Tit feeding among the trees.  img 1246---black-redstartThis was soon followed by a Robin hopping around on the ground feeding.  In the bushes above the car park area there was a Dartford Warbler calling, but despite us all searching, we did not see it.  Two Mistle Thrush flew overhead together.  A male Blackbird was perched in a tree and three adult male and four female Chaffinch were feeding on the ground below.  There was also a male and female Stonechat feeding together.  As we were walking back to the cars four Jay flew overhead and a male Black Redstart was perched on a rock bobbing up and down.

We then drove along the track towards the gorge and on the way our attention was caught by Cirl Bunting feeding on the ground.  There were two male and three female birds.  While we were watching them we also saw an adult Nuthatch feeding in a tree and more Chaffinch; three males and two females feeding on the ground.  Also, as we returned to the car another two adult Jay flew overhead.  In fact the Jay turned out to be the bird we saw most during the day as we saw about thirty birds.

The track along the gorge had been badly damaged by the recent severe storms but repair work had been carried out since, which made it passable.  We drove along the track beside the dry riverbed listening for the call of Firecrest in the wood bordering the track.  Fortunately, we heard birds calling close to the road and soon were able to see two birds feeding in the branches above us.  We saw more Chaffinch, more Jays and two Common Raven flew overhead calling.  Also, four Griffon Vultures glided together high overhead.
3t9p1654---nuthatchWe also saw eight Wood Pigeon flying together above the trees.  Several Common Chiffchaff were heard calling in the woods and we saw several feeding.  There were also Robin feeding on the ground and Crested Tits feeding in the branches above us.

Eventually we reached the gorge and flying along the cliffs above us were two Chough calling to each other.  A male and female Black Wheatear were flying among the rocks above us and not far away were male and female Rock Buntings.  A Peregrine Falcon flew along the hillside and Dartford Warblers were seen calling from gorse bushes.

Further along the track we came to a ruin surrounded by coniferous trees with a stream running past it.  Here we saw two Great Spotted Woodpecker tapping tree trunks in search of food.  A softer tapping sound allowed us to discover a Nuthatch also feeding in the branches of the coniferous trees.  We also spotted Short-toed Treecreepers and found more Firecrest also feeding in the trees.  At the edge of the stream there was a White Wagtail feeding.
Next we drove back down the gorge to the main track that would take us to an area called Los Quejigales.  The track to Los Quejigales had been properly scraped and was in the best condition that I have seen.  On our arrival we sat at the picnic tables and had our picnic lunch.  It was a short lunch as we were now at about one thousand three hundred metres and the temperature was falling.

3t9p3376---mistle-thrushAfter lunch we walked along the track for about two kilometres and returned.  During this walk we found six Woodlark feeding together on the ground.  There was also a flock of seven Goldfinch flying around and a Mistle Thrush perched in a tree.  Another Great Spotted Woodpecker and Nuthatch were seen feeding and lots of Chaffinch and Jay were recorded.  There was also a male Great Tit and a Blue Tit seen in bushes and a female Crossbill in a coniferous tree.  Overhead, we watched five Eurasian Crag Martins feeding.

We left Los Quejigales to return to the car park but soon stopped when we saw thrushes flying across the track in front of us.  Creeping quietly through the bushes we eventually identified five Redwing flying past very swiftly and another Mistle Thrush.  Just as we were leaving this area we spotted a first-winter Golden Eagle gliding along a mountain ridge above us.  Fortunately we were able to watch it long enough for everyone to obtain a good sighting of this magnificent bird.
This last sighting capped a very enjoyable day of birding.  In total we saw thirty one different species, which is good for this site in late November.

Birds seen on the day 31 species (Shown in systematic order)
Griffon Vulture, Golden Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Wood Pigeon, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay, Chough, Common Raven, Crested Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Wood Lark, Eurasian Crag Martin, Common Chiffchaff, Dartford Warbler, Firecrest, Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper, Blackbird, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, White Wagtail, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Crossbill, Rock Bunting, Cirl Bunting.

David Hird
Chairman of Andalucia Bird Society

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