Wednesday 2 March 2022

Sierra de Maria with the Arboleas Birding Group

Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

 Wednesday 2 March

A good day's birding by the Arboleas Birding Group as they wander the slopes of the Sierra de Maria. Whilst these lucky birders may have been enjoying the blue skies and sunshine, nothing but rain followed by more rain then even more of the same!  On the other hand, good to see that the Lesser Kestrels have either returned early or maybe they are a few of our ever-increasing number of resident individuals. But, notwithstanding the continuous wet weather, I do hope to see what I can find in the New Forest come Friday with the target species being Bittern, Great White Egret and Redpoll. So, David, you'll be spared a repeat sighting of the dozen Red-breasted Mergansers!

So living in Spain lets you join the walking dead!  Strange how different areas, nevermind countries, seem to have different attitudes to collecting your regular prescriptions, assuming you are alive enough to make the request in the first place.  From being able to just wander to the local chemist in Spain, flash your card and pick up your monthly package to Stamford where it is simply a phone call and then drop in at the local chemist an hour later to our present abode in Warsash.  Here you call or email the health centre then allow a minimum of three days to collect from the local chemist - but the chemist tells you to allow five working days before trying to collect.  But I've found the solution!  Call on a Saturday when the surgery is closed and slip a piece of paper stating requirements through the appropriate letterbox.  Ring Monday to check that somebody found said small slip of paper and not only get confirmation but informed that the pills are already with the pharmacy.  That's the way to do it!

Look forward to reading about next week's medical saga.

Sierra de Maria   -   Wednesday 2nd March

Juda came to my house and we headed north towards the Sierra de Maria.  It was sunny with blue skies but a chilly breeze.  We'd clocked a Collared Dove by the time we'd reached the Repsol garage cafe meeting point in Maria town.

We were met by Michael, Karen, Peter, Alan, Trevor  and new visiting  members, Bill and Jennifer. Trevor was "lucky" to be with us.  He'd gone to the chemist to get his medication only to have his medical card rejected.  He asked why.  The assistant showed him the computer screen.  Apparently he'd died on the 24th February but nobody had told him!

I decided we'd "do" the loop first. Leading the way I saw Magpies, Thekla Lark and a very close view of a male Crossbill that flew across our bonnet.  Also seen were Mistle Thrush, Chaffinch and Woodpigeon.  Driving along I noticed a small lump on a distant pile of stones.  A Little Owl.  A bit further I spotted a Magpie on a large bush.  There was something to its right.  I stopped, got out of my truck to check it out. It was the "head" of a Griffon Vulture.  After about a minute the whole body emerged and flew a couple of hundred metres and landed in a field.  Carrying on I added Carrion Crow, Spotless Starling, Goldfinch and Corn Bunting.  Alan together with Trevor and Peter also saw Stonechat, Calandra Lark and Rock Sparrow.

Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

We stopped just by the village only seeing what was probably a distant Stonechat. I noticed some distant larger soaring birds further down the track.  We headed in that direction seeing a small flock of feeding Rock Sparrows on a ploughed field.  The larger birds turned out to be two pairs of Red-billed Chough doing display flights.  Bill spotted a Red-legged Partridge.  Driving on I added Linnet . We were surprised to see a pair of Grey Heron near one of the depositos, standing in a ploughed field.  Alan had a confirmed sighting of a Crested Lark among the many Theklas and a male Blue Rock Thrush. 
As we approached the cliff face I saw three Griffon Vultures disappearing over the right hand ridge. Karen spotted a Kestrel.  We walked to the far side. Alan spotted a Black Wheatear on the top which Bill found later giving a good view.  I heard a distant yaffle of an Iberian Green Woodpecker.  We returned to our vehicles and I spotted a returning Griffon Vulture.  As I drove off towards the hamlet I glimpsed the woodpecker flying away.  Nothing new was added.

Grey Heron Ardea cinerea (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

At the hamlet, Alan and co saw a pair of Little Owls and Karen added a Hoopoe.  Alan found a pair of Lesser Kestrel on a road sign.  Juda saw a White Wagtail. Alan found a distant perched raptor.  What with the distance and the heat haze we concluded it could have been a Common Buzzard.

Mr & Mrs Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

We headed towards the La Piza forest cafe, seeing a Hoopoe and Calandra lark as we crossed the plain. At the cafe, despite the building work going on, we were able to see Crested, Great, Blue, Coal and Long -tailed Tits using the bird feeders.  Crossbills came to the small pool.  Chaffinches and a Robin, spotted by Peter, were hanging around for nutty scraps.  After lunch, Juda and I headed home as I wouldn't cope with the walking around the Botanical gardens.

Crested Tit Parus cristatus on the feeder (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

The others headed in that direction.  They only added a Black Redstart seen by Bill.
We ended up with 37 species.  A lovely days birding in good weather and company.  Bill and Jennifer said they had a good day. 

I'm sure you'll all join me in wishing Tony, Val Penny's husband, a speedy recovery from his recent stroke.  And sending best wishes to Richard Hirons who has a chest infection.
Regards, Dave

Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information

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