Thursday 20 July 2017

Calar Alto and Sierra de Maria

Wednesday 19 July

Just back from my potentially horrendous visit to the UK and a welcome report from my friend Dave Elliott-Binns to remind me that there is a world of birds out there waiting for me to make contact once more.  So, enjoy Dave's report and for me, all being well, it is Fuente de Piedra come Monday.  The forecast on the coast is clear, dry and sunny with temperatures above the mid-twenties but inland, where I am going, it is suggesting a baking 38C!!!!!  No need for a jumper then.

Calar Alto   -  Tuesday 18th &
Sierra de Maria   -  Wednesday 19th July 2017

Paul and  Matt are still on theirs hols, so whilst Gilly was doing her weekly yoga session, I took them up to the 7,000+Ft heights of the Calar Alto Observatory behind Seron.  We started to climb once we left Tijola.  We stopped at a bridge over a running brook in a valley full of tall trees.  Paul spotted a pair of Black Wheatear high up on the steep valley side.  I then heard the sultry song of a Golden Oriole.  Neither of my companions had seen one before.  A female then flew right over us and disappeared into the trees.  We carried on a bit further up and stopped when we saw movement in a tree we were passing.  Another female giving slightly better views this time.  Driving further up we saw a Kestrel, but then I spotted a large bird of prey soaring above us to the right.  Luckily we were just coming to our next stopping point.  We had good views of a Golden Eagle before it folded its wings back slightly and disappeared from view.  We spotted a perched Woodchat Shrike, looking a bit rough after the breeding season.  

Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We added Wood pigeon and Corn Bunting before turning up towards the Observatory.  We were disappointed that we didn't see any Tawney Pipits or Rock Thrush, but we had good views of Black Redstart, Northern Wheatear, Linnet and Serin.  We saw a total of 15 species.

Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
The next day Gilly was free so we all headed for one of our favourite (and cooler) spots, the Sierra de Maria.  On the way up we'd already logged Common Swift and Woodchat Shrike.  Once in Maria town we added White Wagtail and numerous House Martins around the Repsol Garage canopy.  After a coffee, we made our way to the chapel area.  Only had Rock Sparrow, Goldfinch and Blackbird there so trudged up to the botanical gardens.  Here we had a number of immature Subalpine Warblers plus some Bonelli's Warblers as well.

Young Bobelli's Warbler Phylloscopus bonelli (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
The small pools were attracting birds to drink.  We saw Crested Tit, Crossbill, Blue Tit and Chaffinch.  Griffon Vultures were soaring above us.  Gilly and Matt stayed there as Paul and I did the lower walk.  We had good views of Short-toed Treecreeper, more Subalpine Warblers and a Western Orphean Warbler.  We returned to Gillyand Matt with our list only to hear they'd had good views of Hawfinch plus a Coal Tit.  Luckily the Hawfinch returned so both Paul and Matt had lifers!  A Booted Eagle flew over before we headed back to the truck. 

Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
The stop at the farm buildings proved fruitless and a huge flock of sheep was drinking at the water troughs so we didn't stop.  Paul spotted a Hoopoe before we headed along the plain.  We managed to see Crested Lark, Carrion Crow and Northern Wheatear before arriving at the hamlet.   There were more Crested Larks around the piles if wheat with some Short-toed Larks as an added bonus.  A solitary Lesser Kestrel gave us good views.  By the look of the photo it appears to be a juvenile female with fluffy feathers still on her head!

Fluffy topped female Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We made our way to the La Piza forest cafe, seeing a Little Owl on the way.  Whilst eating our early lunch we were entertained by Crossbills, Chaffinches and Jays having drinks or baths in the water pool.  I also spotted a Pied Flycatcher.  We ended with 31 species.  I suspect Paul and Matt have enjoyed their birdwatching trips with us!

If looks could kill....Little Owl Athene noctua (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

Time for this Jay Garrulus glandarius to get a wash and brush-up (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Regards, Dave

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