Sierras Andujar, Morena and Cazorla – Part One – Malcolm Palmer

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A small group of eight members of the Costa Blanca Bird Club set off on a chilly morning in early February with the avowed intention of seeing the elusive Lynx, of which feline only some 400 individuals are at liberty in the whole of Spain, and which are mainly nocturnal and extremely shy. We drove all morning, miraculously coinciding – more or less – at our comfortable Hotel Del Val, Andújar, around two o’clock. After checking in, we set off for our first look at the Sierra de Andújar, part of the great Sierra Morena which strides over the whole of northern Andalucía. Four of our party had clapped eyes on a Lynx previously, the other half never. We watched without any sort of success for the whole afternoon, as the weather started to close in a little, with rain threatening. Towards sunset, we located two rather fine Hawfinches in a bare tree, then enjoyed watching the antics of Long-tailed Tits, Chiffchaffs and Grey Wagtails in the river valley. A Lesser Spotted Woodpecker called from nearby trees, reminding me that they are expanding their range in that area. We were then pleased to meet up with Julian Sykes, who had his own group there, seeking Otters down by the river.

Next morning we arose to thick mist, which soon burned off to a fine sunny day, with a chill wind to keep the temperature down. We took the dreadful road down to the Jandula dam, again failing to see a Lynx, but we had much better luck with Red and Fallow Deer and Mouflon. Spirals of Griffon Vultures were joined by the occasional Black Vulture, and when we arrived at the dam, a pair of displaying Red-billed Chough, a nice male Blue Rock Thrush, and a lot of Crag Martins awaited us. We decided then to return to the riverside, and it was there that the birds were at their best, as a beautiful pair of Spanish Imperial Eagles circled in front of a neighbouring hillside, a Golden Eagle above them. A Bonelli’s Eagle, way over the reservoir, excited the attention of the nesting Goshawks, and was ‘intercepted’ by one, and the cast of raptors was completed by a Sparrowhawk and a Buzzard. No Lynx, but plenty of compensation from the birds! We completed the day with another spell down by the river, but the Otters were no more obliging than the Lynx, so a bowl of hot soup at the hotel seemed a better option. To be continued……………