Wednesday 4 January 2023

Sierra de Maria with the Arboleas Birding Group

Wednesday 4 January

The start of the new year and Dave and his Arboleas Birding Group made their way u the Sierra Maria, finding the expected drop in temperature.  But what a way to start the year with a good sighting of that rare little raptor, the Merlin.  Even a kestrel to give a size and face markings for comparison. Now we can look forward to more goodies as the Arboleas birders start roving around Almeria province.  Happy New Year to you all!

Sierra de Maria  -  Wednesday 4th January

For our first trip of the year I decided we'd go to my favourite birdwatching site, the Sierra de Maria. Juda came to my house and we headed up the A7/E15 and then turned left towards Granada.  We came off at the Velez Rubio exit and made our way towards Maria town.  En route we only saw a line of Woodpigeon perched on a high voltage wire.  In town we added Collared Dove and House Sparrow. Instead of stopping at the Repsol garage cafe, we carried on to the La Piza forest cafe.  Last time we were there, there were no nuts in the feeders so I'd bought some from a local market and Richard Hirons had kindly contributed some more and three fat balls.  We were joined by Trevor & Val.  Trevor's car informed him it was 2c, which didn't surprise as the fields that were still in shadow had frost on them. Luckily I'd brought some water as well as the concrete pool was empty as well.  We filled the feeders up and had some thermos coffee as the cafe was shut till the 13th January.

We re-traced our steps to turn onto the loop, me leading in my truck with Juda and Trevor in his car with Val following behind.  In the forest section we identified Blackbird, Chaffinch and Great Tit.  Out on the agricultural section we saw quite a few Carrion Crows and a few Magpies.  Small flocks of birds were seen.  We identified more Chaffinch and Goldfinches.  Also seen were White Wagtails.

We stopped outside the village.  Val spotted a female Black Redstart and Trevor found two Corn Buntings atop a leafless bush.  Apart from numerous feral pigeons, nothing else was seen so we continued on our way.  I spotted some Greenfinch and a distant Kestrel.  Stopping at the cliff face proved virtually fruitless.  The only bird seen was a Thekla Lark.  We carried on and came to the group of farm buildings.  Seeing 14 Thekla Larks along the roofline was a shock!

Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

We got to the airfield and disturbed a Mistle Thrush standing erect by the runway.  A bit further down we saw a bird of prey on a fence post.  Being chocolate brown I assumed it was a female Sparrowhawk. About four times I tried to get a photo . Each time I tried to focus it flew off, further down the fence line.  Eventually it alighted on a small building.  I managed to get some out of focus record shots before it flew off.  You can imagine my surprise when I downloaded the photos to discover it was a Merlin! (Note to self....confirm ID before trying to get a photo!)

Merlin Falco columbarius (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

Carrying on through the cave house village, we added some Spotless Starlings.  On the road to the hamlet we saw four Hoopoe and a sitting Calandra Lark.

There was no sign of the Little Owls at the hamlet or any other birds there.  The plains only produced a male Stonechat.  We stopped at the water trough.  I spotted a Linnet with some perched Goldfinch. 
So we headed back to La Piza where we hoped the birds were now feeding on the nuts.  As we ate our brought lunch we did not see or hear one bird. (emogi...sad face!)

Obviously not a brilliant days birding but the Merlin made up for the other disappointments!  The weather improved to being warm and sunny.  Of course I was in good company as well!
Happy New Year and good birding for 2023.

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