The weather forecasters certainly were on the button with their warning of ultra high temperatures occurring over the weekend that the ABS were due to meet in Andujar N.P. Jose Luis Sanchez, our guide for the day, had warned participants via the forum, and at the same time, suggested a re-jigging of the timetable to suit the conditions.
So 13 members assembled at Los Pinos Tourist Complex at 0830hrs and set off down the main track. We soon lost one car with 4 participants but the rest (9 of us) continued on our way.
Little Owls were numerous on the Holm Oaks and on the rock piles and plenty of Goldfinches were in the scrub. Woodchat Shrikes with their young seemed to be everywhere, perhaps it’s a good season for them. This area must surely contain one of the highest densities of Azure-winged Magpies – and today was no exception. Crested Larks, Common Magpies and Mistle Thrushes seemed to love the area where the fighting bulls are reared. I say fighting bulls in name only, these ones are bred purely for the strain and live a full and happy life without any stress. The good lady, I believe to be the owner of the Mahou Brewery, will not allow any form of hunting on her vast estate, and she breeds the bulls as a hobby. Now you know what beer to drink!
As we carefully drove our way along the rather deteriorated track toward the Lynx viewpoints we collected sightings of Barn & Red-rumped Swallows, House Martins, several Hoopoes, Red-legged Partridges [most with young in tow], and flashes of Golden Oriels. Approaching one of the known watch point areas Jose Luis pointed out for all to see one of the handful of breeding areas for White-rumped Swifts. This iconic bird, featured on the ABS badge, was seen by all as they entered the nesting area, no doubt busy feeding young. A couple of Hawfinches flew over, but later we were to have fabulous views of this bird. Both Wood Pigeons and Collared Doves were numerous and close by a Dartford Warbler was busy, and took no notice of us.
The Common Magpies were very agitated at a distance of 200 mtrs. away, usually a good indication of a Lynx close to hand. The racket they made continued unabated as they flew/hopped from bush to bush and tree to tree. Jose was convinced a Lynx was there, but sadly the scrub and trees too dense for any sighting. Never mind because the first of the days Griffon Vultures floated over and a couple of minutes later, a low, solo, Black Vulture gave everyone super views. This was shortly followed by one Spanish Imperial Eagle soon to be joined by its partner. The 2 birds circled around, both high and low and at times very close to us – what super views everyone had. Just when we thought it couldn’t get better one landed on top of a tree enabling a ‘scope to give superb close up detail of this magnificent bird.
We carried on from the watch point, down the track heading for the dam and the end of the track. Parking in what little shade there was we walked to view the Eagle Owl nesting area, sadly they had decided on a cooler place out of sight. Blackbirds and Sardinian Warblers were joined by numerous House Sparrows in the close vicinity of us. Down in the river below a couple of juvenile Mallard were feeding and the dam wall contained hundreds of House Martins attempting to obtain a little shade. A few Crag Martins were also noted but the stars here were the numerous Golden Oriels.
We lost count of how many, and all enjoyed the males chasing other males away from their territory with such vigour, and at one stage the flute like call was echoing in the canyon. We then walked across the dam, noting the hundreds of House Martin nests high up in the tower, until we reached the cool of the cave/access track. Jose Luis then pointed out the cracks and crevices that contained 4 species of bats. Whiskered, Mouse Eared, Bent Wing and Daubenton’s. With the aid of torches all were clearly seen and photographed by some members.
By now it was 1330hrs and a decision had previously been made to take a break in the afternoon, a siesta and swim at the hotel, and meet again for the evening at 1900hrs. So we made our way back to Los Pinos reaching there by 1415hrs, but not without viewing Common Kestrel and an adult Golden Eagle on the journey. A large ‘clara con limon’ was enjoyed by all, as was a ‘bocadillo con jamon y queso’!
Meeting again later our numbers had reduced even further by 2 members having to return home, but the rest of us set off taking the low road down to the Rio Jandula. The temperature, even at 1900hrs reached a dizzy height of 43c, the car’s air-con was struggling! Parking at the lower dam we walked to stand on the bridge and soon observed a busy pair of Kingfishers whose nest was obviously below where we stood. A pair of Grey Wagtails also favoured the area. Trees around contained both Blue & Great Tits, Common Swift [unusual in the area] and hundreds of Barn Swallows perched on a distant bare tree. Many Rock Sparrows and Bee-eaters were visible. Whilst standing on the bridge Jose recounted the story of a group of 8 Spaniards who, 2 weeks previously had been standing on the same spot when a female Lynx walked past them. Of course in this day and age all of them had their phones out to record this fantastic, once in a lifetime, event. How lucky for them – sadly not replicated for us.
But we moved on a little way to the Otter pool and sat on the rocks, no Otter, but Great Spotted and Green Woodpecker, a close by Nightingale and Sardinian Warbler gave super views. Several Hawfinches had flown over but nearing dusk [2145hrs] 3 flew into a nearby pine tree allowing lovely views for us all.
As we left to drive back to the complex a Red Deer stag was nonchalantly grazing right next to a BBQ area at the side of the track, I wonder, did he know he was safe?
Back at Los Pinos we all sat on the tree covered terrace enjoying a cold beer and recounting our long, but very enjoyable day. Grateful thanks were made to Jose Luis who had given up his whole day and evening to guide us. Thank you once again Jose Luis.