Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Sierra de Maria with the Arboleas Bird Group

Wednesday 7 September

I understand from my friend David Elliott-Binns that another friend, Andy Paterson, is going to give up his "Birding the Costa" blog so we could well be the "home" for future reports from Dave and his Arboleas Bird Group, very similar in so many aspects to our own Axarquia Bird Group.

Sierra de Maria   -   Wednesday 7th September 2016

Well, the summer is supposed to be over but we were greeted with temperatures exceeding 30c as we met up with other group members at the garage cafe in Maria town.  Sure, the House Martins had left the garage canopy nesting area, but Barn Swallows were still passing by in small numbers.  John had kindly chauffeured Richard & I up here.  We were joined by Colin & Sandra.  After a coffee and chat about our summers break we headed to the chapel. Above the car park, high up, were hundreds of hirundines.  As they had white rumps our first impression was House Martins, but then we spotted some with swallow tails. It was a huge flock of migrating Red Rumped Swallows. Colin then spotted a bird of prey below the mountain ridge. Obligingly it flew over us. A pale adult Booted Eagle. 

Moving towards the water trough, we added Goldfinch, Chaffinch and a Jay.  Above us we saw the first of many Griffon Vultures and the odd Crag Martin.  From the jizz I found a flycatcher.  Mine was a Pied, but Richard saw a Spotted Flycatcher as well.  I also saw a female Common Redstart, another migrant passing through. But the best was a Whinchat. a first for us at Maria, I think....sure Richard Gunn will confirm or otherwise!  We also had Great and Long Tailed Tits, Serin and Rock Bunting. Richard, I think, then spotted a smaller bird of prey approaching.  A low flying Sparrowhawk.  

Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)

We sauntered up towards the Information Centre.  I saw some more Griffon Vultures soaring high above us.  I checked with my binoculars and was astounded to find they were surrounded by at least 100 Alpine Swifts!  Then we could hear the unmistakable sound of Bee Eaters.  Not usually seen at this altitude so obviously migrating through.  There was at least 50 of them.  Moving into the garden area we added Crossbill, a Willow Warbler and a Chiffchaff.  We did the lower walk, seeing loads of Chaffinch but not adding anything more.  Once we'd returned to the garden area where little man made pools had been incorporated into the area, Colin found a Crested Tit and I, a Blue Tit, to complete our titmouse collection for the day.  Colin added a Hoopoe and Richard, a Blackbird. There were three Booted Eagles soaring above us.

Crossbill  Loxia curvirostra (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
We then convoyed to the Farm Buildings where we found a pair of Northern Wheatear and a White Wagtail.  We didn't stop at the farm trough as 50 odd goats had beaten us to it, so we drove slowly along the plain, seeing a single Crested Lark and a few more Northern Wheatear.  We stopped as usual at the hamlet.  Further towards Orce we could see a rising plume of Griffon Vultures, about 20 in all.  When They had got closer I found a single Short Toed Eagle amongst them.

We headed back, stopping briefly at the farm trough with a negative result.  We lunched at the La Piza forest cafe, where we were entertained by Great, Crested and Long Tailed Tits at the nut feeders and water pool.   Also seen was a Pied Flycatcher, Crossbills, Chaffinches and unusually obliging Jays.  We also added Mistle Thrush. John did well to hear a Wood Pigeon over the music coming from the cafe!

Jay Garrulus glanddarius (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
Birding in Maria can be hit and miss.  Today was definitely a big hit!  38 species in all.
Sadly my friend and mentor, Andy Paterson, has decided to end his Birding the Costas blog.   Thank you for your advice and help over the years.  Good birding, mate.

Regards, Dave

Thanks Dave.  I look forward to many more of your birding adventure with your intrepid group.

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

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