Thursday 18 March 2021

Sierra de Maria withthe Arboleas Birding Group

 Wednesday 17 March

And a "top of the mornin' to you!" as Dave and his Arboleas Birding Group set off for the Sierra de Maria, and having to take the long way round to avoid crossing into Murcia province.  And what little green fellas did they find?  Certainly female Crossbills (or should that be Crosspats?), Green Woodpeckers and then, of course, Greenfinches.  So, as well as a good day's birding, all would appear to be well with the colours form "Paddy Land."

Sierra de Maria  -  Wednesday 17 March

Having had a near sleepless night, I wasn't at the top of my game as I drove Juda and Rob towards Maria using, because of Covid restrictions, the Oria and Chirivel route avoiding Murcia province.  En route to the cafe meeting point in Maria town we logged Collared Dove, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow and a Mistle Thrush.  We met up with Adrian, Kevin, Troy, Pete, Sue (?), Neville, Trevor and John.  After a coffee and plan talk I decided the majority of the group would go round the loop whilst I would take Juda and Rob to the chapel and plains.  Here is a joint report so bare with me!  Us first....We spotted both Serin and Goldfinch as we drove up the hill towards the chapel.  Once there, despite the cold gusty wind, we heard the yaffling of an Iberian Green Woodpecker and had a fleeting glimpse of a Jay near the water trough.  

Jay Garrulus glandarius (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

Rob saw a Black Wheatear and a Blackbird.  Also seen were Long-tailed, Coal and Crested Tit.  Due to the weather, Juda being dressed like Nanook of the north, we drove up to the Botanical gardens where, thankfully. we had shelter from the winds.  A couple of female Crossbill showed well and we saw more of the previously mentioned Tits.  Rob spotted a lone Griffon Vulture above the ridge.  I spotted a Woodlark.  As we drove down towards the main road we saw a couple of Magpies and a Robin.

Two female Crossbill Loxia curvirostra (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

 We next stopped at the ruined farm buildings.  A Mistle Thrush was perched on the tree above the small deposito.  Some Thekla Larks were flitting around.  A female Black Redstart made a brief appearance. Rob spotted the first of a small number of Barn Swallows seen during the day. 

Driving along the plain Rob found a solitary Rock Dove on a field.  We added Calandra Lark as well as seeing more Theklas.  At the hamlet there were at least 5 Lesser Kestrels.  A Red-billed Chough flew by as did a Carrion Crow. 

Thekla Lark Galerida theklae (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

A Rock Sparrow showed well.  We added Corn Buntings.

Driving back to the water troughs we had good views of Linnet, White Wagtail, Goldfinch, but the star was a Cirl Bunting.
Cirl Bunting Emberiza cirlus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

At the La Piza forest cafe, having set up my trail camera by the small pool, we sat down for lunch and observed the comings and goings around the nut feeders.  We had Blue, Great, Coal, Crested and Long-tailed Tits, Chaffinch, Crossbill and Jays.  Overhead Rob was first to see a flight of 30+ Griffon Vultures.  We waited for over an hour for the others to join us, but alas we had to go before they arrived.

Jay Garrulus glandarius (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

This is John's summary of their mornings birding.  After separating from us, they started round the loop, seeing Mistle Thrush, four Carrion Crows, Crested Larks and Corn Bunting.  Stopping just before the village, they spotted the first of half a dozen Kestrel sightings.  A couple of Barn Swallows were skimming the reeds.  Kevin found a Thekla Lark.  A Hoopoe was heard but not seen.

Moving along the track, which was in the process of being repaired they added Red-legged Partridge, Greenfinch and Magpies.  Kevin and Troy spotted a distant, hence unidentified, eagle.  Near the rocks they saw a Stonechat, some Jackdaws and a Hoopoe.  Troy found a pair of flying Mallard then a pair of Black Redstarts.  Travelling on they saw some Griffon Vultures and a Red-billed Chough and Ravens near the runway.  They added a charm of Goldfinches before reaching the hamlet.  They also saw the Lesser Kestrels and added House Martin to the list.  They saw the same species as us at the water trough and at La Piza.

Male Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

A very pleasant, if not odd day's birding.  Adding up, I think in total the two sections saw a total of 43 species.

Regards, Dave

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