October 2013 – Laguna Grande and Sierra Magina in Jaen

Thirty of us, including our leader for this field meeting, Jose Sanchez Balsera, met in the car park of the Hacienda La Laguna Hotel, on the edge of Puente del Obispo, 9am.  Jose explained that the morning would be spent walking round the perimeter track of the nearby Laguna Grande and the afternoon would be spent exploring Sierra Magina, looking for Golden Eagles.

Oct2013-Lagune-GrandeWe therefore quickly set off for the nearby Laguna and had a leisurely walk around the laguna in the morning sunshine.  The first birds we encountered were Grey Heron and Little Egret that were either perched in the surrounding tamarisk bushes or feeding in the shallows at the edge of the laguna.  Also perched in the tamarisk bushes were Great Cormorants, a mixture of adult birds and juveniles.  Some were stood with their wings outstretched, drying in the sun.  Other birds of this species were feeding in the laguna and a few were flying about.
There was also a family of Great Crested Grebes feeding in the centre of the laguna.  The family consisted of two adult, parent birds and four fully grown juvenile birds.  It was surprising how they remained close together as they swam and dived.  Also in the centre of the laguna there were several male and female Mallards feeding together on its surface and adult male and female Gadwalls. Around the edge of the laguna was Eurasian Coot and Common Moorhens.  Whereas the Moorhen were walking around the edge of the laguna, the Coots were feeding on the surface of the shallow water at the edge.  Also among the reeds at the edge of the laguna we also heard several Cetti’s Warblers calling, but as usual we did not see any.
Flying around the edge of the laguna, perching in the tamarisk bushes, there were about twenty adult Iberian Magpies.  They were quite noisy and we became very familiar with their call by the end of our walk. A single Common Magpie was also seen.
Flying above the laguna, some of the group spotted a Black-winged Tern.  There was also a male and two female Marsh Harriers flying around and a group of eight adult Common Snipe also flew up from behind the tamarisk and flew away.  A small flock of Spotless Starling also flew overhead and an adult male Black-winged Stilt flew the length of the laguna before disappearing.
Among the wooded area of our walk there was an abundance of Robin, Chaffinch, Common Chiffchaff and Tits.  The most common member of the Tit family was Great Tit and there was also Blue Tit, Coal Tit and Long-tailed Tit present. We also saw several Sardinian Warbler, Blackbird, Wood Pigeon and a single adult female Pied Flycatcher.
At around 11:00, following our walk around Laguna Grande, we drove to the start of the exploration of Sierra Magina.   On our way we passed a local solar panel station and it was here that we saw Black-winged Kite and Southern Grey Shrike.  There were Corn Buntings and Stonechats on the road side electricity cables on our route.  We also saw local House Sparrows as we passed through human habitations and there were Thekla Larks in the bare fields.  Three Hoopoes were also recorded before we arrived at start of the mountain track.
We parked the cars and walked up the mountain for about a mile to a viewing point to look for the eagles and eat our packed lunches.  The views we encountered on our walk up were beautiful.  A flock of Goldfinch flew past and we were able to stop and watch an adult male Blue Rock Thrush peeping over the edge of a tall crag and adult male and female Black Wheatears flying together among the rocks.  There were also Robin and Great Tit among the trees.  Above us were several Crag Martins feeding and Wood Pigeons flew above the trees.  At the viewing point Jose showed us a Golden Eagle´s nest built some distance away on a sheer rock face.  We saw about twenty Griffon Vultures and it was hoped that each one would be a Golden eagle but to our dismay, none where.  A Goshawk flew back and forth across a distant hillside, which kept our attention and two adult Choughs passed high over ahead, but there were no Golden Eagles.
It was decided that we return down the track to collect the cars  and drive the thirty kilometre journey over the top of the mountains, eventually reaching just under 1800 metres at the top of the pass before dropping back down on the northern side.  The views that we encountered on this journey on this bright and sunny day can only be described as magnificent.
Once on the higher slopes we found our first Golden Eagle.  It was a distant speck and we hoped we would get closer views of this incredible bird and we did.  At just over 1600 metres above sea level we stopped at an old stone building, which was a shepherds rest, and we saw two more.  One of the eagles glided overhead and then landed and perched on a boulder about 800 to 900 metres away for about twenty minutes. It could be clearly seen through a telescope and everyone was able to get a good look at this magnificent bird.  Another adult bird glided overhead and it was not far away from a Griffon Vulture which enabled everyone to compare the two birds and note the differences. Also at the shepherd’s rest we found a Jay, a number of Chaffinches, Common Chiffchaffs and many Wood Pigeon.  There were also flocks of Ring Ouzels feeding on the berries of the laden bushes around us.  These birds were seen many times as we drove along the remainder of the track to the top of the pass.  At the top of the pass we encountered our fourth Golden Eagle, which glided along a valley, at about eye level and only about 500 metres away.  It landed on a cliff edge and stayed for about ten minutes giving us the best views of the day.  When it flew off it was soon accompanied by a fifth adult Golden Eagle and they glided together into the distance.  At the beginning of the day we would have been happy with one Golden Eagle, five was way beyond our expectations.
Returning to the lower slopes we looked in vain for a Bonelli’s Eagle at its traditional nesting site but did see a distant Peregrine Falcon, Sparrowhawk  and Griffon Vulture.  Greenfinches and two Hawfinches were also seen.
Oct2013-GroupOn our way back to the Hacienda La Laguna Hotel we saw a pair of Hoopoes and then a couple of Common Buzzards.  There were also a few Jackdaw, a large flock of Chough and a pair of Common Ravens.  At least three Mistle Thrushes flew over the road in front of us and another Southern Grey Shrike was recorded.
We finished at about 18:30, tired and dusty, but very content.  What a terrific day of birding Jose had provided us.
At around 19:30, as the sun was setting, some of us returned to Laguna Grande and watched about eighty Little Egrets, about forty Great Cormorants and a much lesser number of Grey Herons fly in to roost among the tamerisk bushes that bordered the laguna.  But the best spectacle was close to two hundred Jackdaw, together with about fifty Spotless Starling flying in to roost.  The noise was unbelievable.
53 species seen.
Red-legged Partridge, Gadwall, Mallard, Great Crested Grebe, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Great Cormorant, Black-winged Kite, Griffon Vulture, Western Marsh Harrier, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Northern Goshawk, Common Buzzard, Golden Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Common Moorhen, Eurasian Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Common Snipe, Black-winged Tern, Wood Pigeon, Hoopoe, Southern Grey Shrike, Jay, Iberian Magpie, Common Magpie, Chough, Jackdaw, Common Raven, Coal Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Thekla Lark, Eurasian Crag Martin,  Cetti’s Warbler, Long-tailed Tit, Common Chiffchaff, Sardinian Warbler, Spotless Starling, Ring Ouzel, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Stonechat, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Pied Flycatcher, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Hawfinch, Corn Bunting.

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