A couple of visits to Sierra Loja in Granada Province, and a walk around the Guadalhorce in Malaga produced a few nice birding moments and photographs. Perhaps the highlight was watching Rufous-tailed Rock Thrushes up in the highest part of Sierra Loja.
The Rock Thrush is a summer visitor from Sub-Sahara, it inhabits and breeds here on steep rocky mountain slopes and alpine meadows above 1500 meters. Sierra Loja is one such location.
The male in Spring is a very handsome bird with a blue/grey head clearly demarcated from the orange breast and belly. Females are supposedly more anonymous in vermiculated and striped browns, but interestingly we observed perhaps four or five pairs, all of which looked like males, strange.
I was interested to see a nice male Montagu's Harrier up here, probably the same bird spotted by Kevin Wade and Ricky Owen a few days earlier. This is essentially a lowland species but I suspect the attraction up here is the number of ground nests and in particular Partridges, which are very numerous.
This bird seems to have been successful in finding a Red-legged Partridge Chick, easy pickings perhaps for a bird with such amazing eyesight and flying agility.
There are a number of other species to be seen in this habitat. Not least the Rock Bunting which is very common. I like this shot of one singing its heart out on a lichen encrusted rock.
We picked up all three species of Wheatear, Black, Northern and Black-eared Wheater. Griffon Vultures were wheeling around overhead, Choughs Jackdaws, Blue Rock Thrush, Rock Sparrow, Black Redstart, Stonechat and Linnet were fairly common in the higher Sierra and I grabbed a quick snap of a passing Peregrine Falcon right at the top.
Lower down we had Whitethroat and Spectacled Warbler , Mistle Thrush and Azure Winged Magpies. Finally the resident Eagle owl was sitting in the rock cavity where they have nested for many years. Very high up and hard to photograph, but I did my best.
The bird below I initially thought was a Spectacled Warbler. Bob Wright who was with us at the time thought Whitethroat. I am still undecided. Bob has more experience than me, so this, plus the relatively low forehead and rather strong legs has persuaded me it's a Whitethroat, but I am not 100% on it.
A shopping trip to IKEA gave us the opportunity for a walk around the Guadalhorce Reserve near Malaga Airport. This does not have the variety or number of birds of a few years ago but the exercise was welcome and we did see some nice Kentish Plovers which appeared to be nesting on the beach. This would be unfortunate because here they will be subject to a lot of human and canine disturbance on warm sunny days. How can you tell a bird to stick to their protected area?
The Sanderling below had me confused. They are normally very active, scurrying around dodging the surf along the waterline in small flocks. This bird was solitary and very passive, it hardly moved. Perhaps it was not well but anyway I really like the beautiful marbled wing and back Spring plumage . I posted it on Facebook as a Little Stint but John Cantelo kindly corrected my error.