Saturday, 15 February 2014

A bird (or six) in the bush…..

Hi all,

On Saturday (15th February) I went back to Sierra Espuña again, this time with Mick Brewer who had never been there before, and was keen to see the birds I wrote about last week. We went straight up to the ‘pozos  de nieve de Cartagena', arriving there at around 10:15, and unlike last week, this time there was very little cloud, no wind and the temperature was a very mild 15º.  We must have been the first people to have walked to the ‘pozos’ this morning, as on the way there, we bumped into a herd of around 50 Barbary sheep (or Arruí in spanish, (Ammotragus lervia)).  These animals are normally extremely shy, but although we couldn’t approach too closely, they didn’t seem to be particularly bothered by us, just ambling off as we approached.  We saw some more later on, a more typical sighting, up on top of the rock hills.

Part of the herd of Arruí, or Barbary Sheep

 They didn't seem at all bothered by us

Arruí, or Barbary Sheep, as they are more typically seen
Walking to the ‘pozos’, things were very quiet, to the extent that I hoped we hadn’t made a mistake in coming up here. But when we arrived at the last ‘pozo’, where there is a small water spring, we soon saw that it was worthwhile.  Sitting in the shade of a couple of close bushes, we watched the wild rose bushes for at least a couple of hours.  Apart from when various groups of walkers went through, the bushed seemed to forever have groups of birds in.  Over the time we were there, we had Mistle Thrush, Ring Ouzels (I estimate about 20 this week), Black Redstart, Rock Buntings, Cirl Buntings, Linnets, Goldfinches, at least 8 Crossbills, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Coal Tits and a single Crested Tit all dropping into the bushes over the spring at some stage.  We also had the strange sight of a Short-toed Treecreeper climbing up the broken walls of one of the ‘pozos’, looking for insects.  We also had a reasonably close group of 6 Chough fly over (and we could hear them most of the time we were there), and also heard at least one Jay – a most pleasant way to spend the morning.

Some of the birds seen during the morning
 Male Ring Ouzel

 Pair of Crossbills with male Chaffinch

 Female Cirl Bunting

 Another male Ring Ouzel

 Female Crossbill

 Female Rock Bunting

 Male Rock Bunting

 Male and female Crossbill

Leaving there just before 1pm, we went over to the other ‘pozos’ (‘pozos de la nieve de Murcia’) some of which have been repaired to show how they used to be used. Sitting in the sun, having a sandwich lunch here with the temperature a warm 19ºC, the only birds we saw of note were a pair of Ravens seen for 5 minutes or so, at one stage flying with half a dozen Choughs. In the background we had the constant song of Coal Tits (which we also had earlier at the other ‘pozos’).

 One of the restored 'pozos de la nieve'

On our way out of the reserve, coming back down from the top, we stopped at an area where the pines have recently been thinned out, leaving just small evergreen oaks.  We checked the cliffs behind these for Peregrines but didn’t see any, but DID have a couple of Firecrests and a single Short-toed Treecreeper here.

 Record shot of one of the Firecrests - it IS there, honest! Right in the centre

Our final stop on the way out of the reserve was at the recreational area of Los Alquarías, In fact we made two stops, as the recreational area was too noisy, so we finished the day stopping slightly further down towards the exit of the reserve, where we had more Crested Tits, Great Tit and Crossbills.

And that’s all for now folks, so good birding!!


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