Thursday 21 September 2017

Sierra de Maria with the Arboleas Birding Group

Wednesday 20 September

Another interesting day's birding by David and his Arboleas Birding Group, this time up into the hills of the Sierra de Maria.  There certainly seem to lots of Spotted Flycatchers showing at the moment, no doubt migrating individuals joining the local populations.  Add on also the migrating Pied Flycatchers and there are very many to be found at the moment but, no doubt, all will be gone within the next fortnight or so.
Sierra de Maria   -   Wednesday 20th September

Today the group head for one of our favourite places, the Sierra de Maria. I picked up Richard and Steve and made our way via Velez Rubio and Velez Blanco.  As we passed the garage between the two we were " in the zone!" I spotted our first bird, a Kestrel flying off a pylon.  Richard closely followed with a Southern Grey Shrike, but nothing else noteworthy on our journey to Maria town. Barrie and Beryl were already at the cafe.  We were soon joined by John, Mary and Adrian.  After the usual coffee and chat we headed towards the chapel.  As we were approaching the car park, a bird flew out of a tree to the left and quickly returned from whence it came.  Although in the shade now, the Spotted Flycatcher posed beautifully.  Once we'd parked up we managed to see it again.  A male Stonechat showed well.  We were joined by Jacky at this point.  There was a lot of bird activity on the far side of the field by the water deposit.  We saw Chiffchaff, Chaffinch and Crossbill coming down to drink.  Barrie found a Rock Bunting.  We made our way towards the water trough.  The Spotted Flycatcher was caught having a bath.  We were surprised to hear a Great Spotted Woodpecker firstly drumming and then calling.  Sure enough, it flew over.  The water trough was a hive of activity.  We added Cirl Bunting, Blackbird, Robin and some overflying Bee-eaters.  Richard meanwhile had made his way towards the Botanical Gardens seeing a juvenile Goldfinch on the way.   Barrie and I spotted a Sardinian Warbler.

Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
At the gardens, Richard had already seen Blue, Coal and Crested Tit.  Mary heard and spotted a Firecrest.  Leaving Richard and Adrian there (and Mary doing the lower walk in the opposite direction) we wandered along the forest path.  I heard a distant Raven.  We also heard and then saw a Jay.  An incredible flock of 30+ Mistle Thrush flew over.   We met up with Mary, who'd also seen Long-tailed Tit.  Richard and Adrian had added Serin to the list.  Barrie and I found a young Subalpine Warbler.  A Crag Martin was also spotted.

Sonechat Saxicola torquatus  (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We convoyed along to the farm buildings. John identified Barn and Red -rumped Swallows.  Barrie was first to spot the 3 Griffon Vultures coming out of the sun.
Moving to the farmyard water trough, our first birds were a pair of Carrion Crow.  Steve spotted some LBJs flying to our right.  I picked them up, but saw beyond them at a distance were 3 Alpine Swifts circling high up.   Luckily the others followed the direction of my binoculars to find them as well.  Steve spotted another Spotted Flycatcher.  I found a Crested Lark atop a form building and someone (John?) found a female Northern Wheatear.  We saw some more of the later on the way down to the hamlet.  Here there were more Crested Lark, Short-toed Lark and about half a dozen Yellow Wagtails.  Barrie heard a Corn Bunting.  John may have glimpsed a Booted Eagle before it dropped at a distance behind the farm buildings never to be seen again.

Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We then retraced our steps to the La Piza forest cafe to enjoy our lunch watching Crossbill, Great and Coal Tit, Jay and Chaffinch coming down to drink.  Long-tailed Tits were having a bath in some shallow water behind us.  A Mistle Thrush appeared and Richard spotted some overflying Griffon Vultures.  Jacky had seen about 9 of them doing the high walk.  Barrie found a Blackcap to complete our days list.  A respectable 41 species.  Good weather, birding and company.  What more could you ask for!  Regards, Dave

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