28 August 2014

Lynx Hunting in the Sierra Moreno

The Sierra Moreno still has a few Wolves hidden away somewhere in the north of the area but they're almost impossible to find. Iberian (Pardel) Lynx, however, is supposed to be much easier since here they are at their highest density in Spain and there's a lot of effort being made to preserve and increase their numbers. The south of the Parque Natural and the area outside the Park there seems to be the best place to look. We didn't actually find any Lynxes but then we knew it wasn't a good time of year to try. Maybe we'll be able to get back this winter.

The Sierra is just over the provincial border in Jaen Province, about two hours away. It's a superb area with or without Lynxes, the birds are brilliant and the presence of large hunting estates means populations of Deer are very high.

There are plenty of Griffon Vultures as you would expect but it's also fairly easy to see Black Vultures here, their white feet standing out against their black plumage.

The road signs remind motorists regularly about the presence of Lynx with a reminder to keep to the speed limit.

One of the first birds we saw was a young Eagle Owl, still a bit fluffy around the edges, sitting out and looking huge on a rock pinnacle. Unfortunately it was too distant for a good photo but then there were already Azure-winged Magpies around, making their presence known. We saw hundreds through the trip, possibly the commonest bird but very difficult to photograph even when close unlike some commoner birds like Bee-eaters.

The southern part of the Sierra, north of Andujar is Lynx territory and that's the bit Kathy and I explored. We kept seeing Deer often at close range and often heard the Stags too. Red Deer were everywhere though Fallow Deer were far from unusual.

Outside the Park we headed for a dam on the river which is in the best area for Lynx and can be good for birds and other mammals. The Lynx share some of the area with Torros Bravos - Fighting Bulls which are traditionally bred in the area.

It was in this area that we had our best views of Spanish Imperial Eagle, another speciality of the area. An adult drifted towards us, coming amzingly close and giving stunning views. I took shot after shot only to find the camera setting had slipped and they were all nothing but white light. I managed a couple of poor record shots (the best below) as it drifted further off. I was gutted.

We carried on to the dam where a Black Stork flew off on arrival and there were Blue Rock Thrushes, Golden Orioles and less expectedly Green and Common Sandpipers. There were also Mouflon here, females and young. A mammal tick for both of us.

On the way back up the track we saw agroup of Wild Boar, a bit distant but always good to see.

Finally we stopped of at a picnic site as we re-crossed the river which turned out to be an excellent place. We watched Hawfinches here, a favourite species which we don't find nearer to home as well as Kingfisher which, again, is difficult along with Black Vulture and Booted Eagle. Another reason for stopping at this place was that I thought I'd got a glimpse of a White-rumped Swift earlier but couldn't be sure. A lifer and something of a magic bird though I didn't hold out much hope. There were Red-rumped Swallows however, a species which seemed to be everywhere this summer (hopefully some will grace Pembrokeshire later). I started taking photos and then to my shock and delight pretty boy below flies into the viewfinder. It more than made up for the loss of Spanish Imperial Eagle photos. I managed the fairly ropy shot below but it was a great moment.

As I was taking photos this large colourful lizard was hanging around, no idea what kind but another reminder of how there is to learn and explore in this region.

27 August 2014

Moth Test in North-east Granada

The moths of Spain are a mystery to us and so Kathy and I decided to see what we would find around the Cave when we were there in the summer. It turned out to be interesting and strange. This post is an odd one in that I can't put names to the photos. We only recognised two macro moths from our British guide book - Ruby Tiger, Vestal. And they could be wrong, maybe they are related Iberian species. We also recognised Pine Processionary Moth but mainly we found out we've a lot to find out - starting this winter. 

The moths were generally more active than in Britain, presumably because it was hotter and lots got away. We couldn't use a trap of course because that isn't allowed in Spain without a Licence which you must get from the the local Ayuntemiento.  We almost went along to ask for one with a Spanish-speaking friend, Christine, We didn't but the idea of what would be their reaction and what they would do always gave us a laugh, especially after a few beers. I imagine we'd have had to explain what a moth is for a start. It's a bit of a backwater, which is why we like it. 

There were a few larger moths which happened along including a couple of Yellow Underwing types but the majority appeared to be micros, albeit large micros. How much of this is the region and how much the time of year we won't know until we try again, having done some learning.

(Since writing the above, top moth-er and all round good bloke, Dave Grundy, has helped me put a few species or families to the photos.) 

 Ermine sp ? and Uresephita gilvata

An Euchromeus pyralid sp.

pyralid sp.

pyralid sp.

Catacola conversa

Catacola sp.

A Prominent sp.

Odice jucunda


A Dioryctria pyralid sp.

Cymbalophora pudica

14 August 2014

Dragonflies in North-east Granada

Spent almost a month in Spain, in north-east Granada, this summer, enjoying Cave-house living and playing the naturalist a bit. Learned a lot, the principal thing being how much I don't know about the fauna (and flora) of Spain. A few posts to come but this, the first, shows a few of the dragonflies we bumped into, starting with the familiar Emperor which we have on our Pembrokeshire pond as well.

Emperor Dragonfly
 This next one is a bit more special however, we found it at La Alqueria and El Margen where they were always photogenic. Sometimes called Scarlet Dragonfly or Scarlet Darter; they are real good-lookers.

Broad Scarlet

Broad Scarlet

Broad Scarlet
 I imagine the Damselfly is a Red-eyed Damselfly. The Southern Skimmer below was at El Margen, I think it's a pretty common southern Spanish species.

Southern Skimmer

The Red-veined Darters were buzzing everywhere at La Alqueria, mixing with the Broad Scarlets for a nice contrast.
Red-veined Darter

 The star Dragonfly was the species below - Orange-winged Dropwing, which like Violet Dropwing (a stunning species I've yet to see) is a recent immigrant from North Africa and still too scarce for any distribution maps as far as I can see. They like little rocky pools even fountains in Iberia. We found two males at a tiny concrete pool with four marble benches around it by a dirt track at El Margen. -presumably some municipal folly. There was a Roller eyeing the insects when we drove up. Soon chased that off, took out the camera - never fails!

Orange-winged Dropwing

Orange-winged Dropwing

The Dropwings as well as the other species often hold their abdomens high to minimise the sun's effect, they often drop their wings low at the same time. These familiar Black-tailed Skimmers were also at La Alqueria.

Black-tailed Skimmer

Black-tailed Skimmer

These beautiful Copper Demoiselles were along the river in Galera one morning. It was really difficult to get the photos to do them justice (I didn't succeed), they were stunning in the right light, especially the darker, copper-red males.

Copper Demoiselle

Copper Demoiselle