Saturday, 25 March 2017

Sierra de Maria with the Arboleas Birdwatching Group

Saturday 25 March

My apologies for the late publishing od Dave's report onhis latest Arboleas Birdwatching Group outing.  I got tied up with the worry of my visit to hospital on Thursday to hear the latest on the cataract operation progress, fell asleep when I got home then forgot to get the job done.  All my fault so sorry chaps and chapesses!  By the  way, good news on the eye front so all should improve every day until the left eye is worked on in about a year's time.  Now to Dave's report.


Sierra de Maria   -   Wednesday 22nd March 2017

After our aborted visit to the Sierra de Maria last week due to inclement weather, we tried our luck this week. Gilly, Richard and myself managed to see Crag Martin, Serin and Wood Pigeon before reaching the meeting place in Maria, but later arrivals had Griffon Vultures, Raven, Robin, White Wagtail and Blackbird on their travels.  In total there were 16 Arboleas Birdwatching Group members out today, so I won't list them.  I apologise in advance if I get who spotted what wrong!   Weather-wise, the sun was out. High clouds, but a cold breeze. 
Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
After a coffee in the Repsol garage cafe, we made our way to the chapel area.  There was a steady flight of Griffon Vultures moving along the ridge from Velez Rubio towards the plain.  At one point they were joined by a hawk.  Les managed to lock on to it with his scope, confirming a Kestrel.   In the area of the trough we saw a female Black Redstart and a Goldfinch.  Gilly found a Blue Tit high up in the poplar tree and a Great Tit was also seen.
Lovely to see the trees in full blossom (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
On the walk up to the Botanical Gardens, Alan and Les's group saw a pair of Stonechat and a Rock Bunting.  The walk round the lower path was virtually devoid of birdlife.  The group which stayed near the Information fared little better with Richard, amongst others, seeing a Long Tailed Tit.  On the walk back to the cars we heard a Cirl Bunting singing from a tree in full blossom.  Also seen were some Magpies.
Long-tailed Tit Aegithalos caudatus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We convoyed to the ruined farm buildings where the early arrivals saw a Hoopoe.  (Adrian said he'd seen a Kestrel the other day killing a Hoopoe!)  Above us were more Griffon Vulture plus two Raven soaring with them.  Barrie spotted a Short Toed Treecreeper in the nearby trees.  As we were driving off I found a pair of Mistle Thrush on the rocky grass field.
Male Chaffinch Frigilla coelebs (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Moving on to the goat/sheep water trough area, one or two birds were feeding under the galvanised troughs.  A pair of Cirl Buntings, some Chaffinch and Crested Lark.  Les found a Skylark as well.  We then moved in convoy along the plain towards the hamlet.  Us up front didn't see much, but behind Barrie saw two Stone Curlew and Alan reported a Short Toed Lark.  At the hamlet a farmer was getting his 4x4 out of the building where the Lesser Kestrels nest in the roof tiles so, once he'd driven off, six individuals returned.  We were then spoilt by the arrival of a pair of Red-billed Chough and taking an interest in possibly looking for a nesting site in that same building.  A Barn Swallow flew by.

Crossbill Loxia curvirostra (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Here the group split temporarily.  Some of us retreated to the La Piza forest cafe whilst the rest ventured a bit further along.  They saw Calandra Lark, Corn Bunting and Linnet.  We had a single Calandra Lark and a Thekla Lark on our way to the cafe.  Once there we birdwatched whilst lunching.  There were numerous Crossbill, Chaffinch, Great and Blue Tits using the water pool and feeding station.  The others joined us.  We also saw a Jay, Crested Tit, Long Tailed Tits and a ground feeding Short-toed Treecreeper.  An Iberian sub-race Red Squirrel was also spotted. After lunching we all went our separate ways.  We spotted a Common Buzzard one the way to Velez Blanco.
We ended up with 41 species.  Lovely day out with so many of the group.
Regards, Dave
Iberian Red Squirrel Sciurus vulgaris (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

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