Elena, Bob and I spent a day out looking for one of my bogey species, the Ring Ouzel. It's a bird that had always eluded me so having seen reports from the Wainwrights of oodles of ouzels up in Sierra Loja feeding on hawthorn berries, off we went. It was a glorious day on the coast but in Granada province the temperature plummeted to below zero, Bob's car thermometer read -5° on his route, but strangely it got warmer as we ventured off-road up into the heights of the Sierra, and at the top it was a balmy +12°.
Sure enough there were Ring Ouzels in the hawthorn bushes, dozens of them so I can finally add the species to my life list. It would have been perfect if we could have just got close enough for a good photo opportunity, but no, the wary blighters wouldn't let us anywhere near them. Still, here are some distant record shots to prove that we did see them at least.
On the way up the mountain I spotted a little owl perched on a rock above the dirt road, so we backed up for a better look and contrary to normal it stayed and watched us with little more than mild annoyance at having its morning nap disturbed.
On the way down after giving up hope of getting close to any Ring Ouzels we passed a handsome Rock Bunting on a wire fence which conveniently stayed put as we pulled up, allowing some nice shots through the open car window.
Two surprise birds today. I don't associate Skylarks with this terrain, they are usually on open cultivated fields or grassy meadows, however there was no doubting the small flock we passed on a rocky hillside. The other surprise was the presence of Redwings in the hawthorn together with the Ring Ouzels. Nice to see thisand a first for me in Spain.
We had a super week in Denmark for sister-in-law Kirsten's 70th birthday party. I enjoyed seeing the Danish family very much and it is always a pleasure to be in Denmark. Other sister-in-law Birgit's Hawfinch had not shown up at the garden feeder yet, she calls him "Jacob" and I hope to make his acquaintance one day. However while staying in Kirsten's summerhouse by a lake we heard the strident but somehow plaintive calling of hundreds of Whooper Swans as they came in to roost on the lake at dusk. The Danes call them "Song Swans" for obvious reasons, quite unlike the much more familiar Mute Swan.
Musical utterances by Whooper Swans at the moment of death have been suggested as the origin of the "Swansong" legend.
Apart from the Swans there was little opportunity for birding but we did take a walk through the woods behind Kirsten's house on a frosty afternoon. I was quite pleased to capture a fleeting shot of this Marsh Tit, or possibly Willow Tit, frankly I can't tell the difference except that the Willow Tit should be a cleaner white underneath than this little chap.
A Robin provided a splash of colour in the wintry scene, and Jackdaws were flocking in their hundreds, making a merry noise as they passed overhead.
I think the beautiful Song Swans are worth another look. They are not birds we ever see in Spain. Five pairs were known to breed in the Orkneys in recent years and surprisingly a single pair bred in Ireland, but they are not familiar birds unless you happen to live in Northern climes such as here in Jutland, where I was very pleased to see them. They are similar in behaviour to the Common Crane but I find them more attractive to look at.
Other recent activity included a day out with the Axarquia Bird Group in Zafarraya and beyond. Thirteen members set out along the old railway track and the first notable sighting was the large number of Ibex, about seventeen of them, overseen by this magnificent male who gave us all excellent views.
Birds sighted include Peregrine and Golden Eagle plus all the usual species for this location, ie Crag Martin, Rock Bunting, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Stonechat, Black Redstart, Red-billed Chough and Rock Sparrow. Incidentals include Goldfinch, Serin and Greenfinch. Some surprise sightings include a Song Thrush, a Southern Grey Shrike and best of all a Citril Finch, well spotted by Andy Patterson and watched at some length later by Elena who lingered behind as we others went through the tunnel.
After exploring the old railway track a few of us diehards ventured into the growing fields of Zafarraya Plain where we picked up Calandra, Thekla, Lesser Short-toed and Skylarks, Corn Bunting, Kestrel, Azure/Winged Magpie, Mistle Thrush, Meadow Pipit and last but not least a very nice Little Owl, who flew off as we stopped to admire him but fortunately not before I rattled off a quick shot.
Retired seafarer living in Frigiliana, a white village in Malaga Province in southern Spain. Married to Elena. Keen bird and wildlife watchers.
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