Wednesday 30 May 2018

Sierra de Maria with the Arboleas Birding Group

Wednesday 30 May

Whilst I was exporing the Guadalhorce with US birding contact Mary Dokery, Dave and his Arboleas Birding Group were back up at the Sierra Maria and some good birds they turned, some of which would be year firsts for me.  And judging from the photograph, Great Spotted Woodpeckers are easily tempted by a little white bread!

Sierra de Maria:  Wednesday 30th May

Was on my own travelling to the Sierra de Maria this morning.  The sun was out so I'd dressed in shorts and T-shirt.  By the time I'd got to Maria there were clouds in the sky and a chill in the air!  As I waited for the others to arrive I watched the House Martins nesting in the forecourt canopy of the town's Repsol Garage.  I was joined by Barrie, Beryl, John, Brian, Mary and lastly Trevor and Ann. We drove up to the chapel car park, seeing Magpie, Chaffinch and Collared Dove, but the star was a Sparrowhawk.  Following behind, Brian and Mary saw a Booted Eagle with a pigeon breakfast!  We parked up with two coach loads of school children.  Also the local council were strimming the grass between the chapel and the water fuente!  It was agreed that we'd retreat and do the plains before returning later.  A Griffon Vulture or two glided effortlessly over us.  On the way down we met Jacky and Steve.  They decided to do the high walk, so we'd meet up later.
We headed in convoy to the old farm buildings, seeing Jay, Blackbird and Woodpigeon on the way.  Arriving first I saw Rock Sparrow departing.   About three Hoopoes could be heard, Barrie also hearing a Woodlark call.  Brian spotted a Corn Bunting.  I wandered round the buildings seeing Goldfinch and more Rock Sparrows.  Barn Swallows were in evidence and John found a Red-rumped Swallow.
Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla  (PHOTO: David Elliott_Binns)
Moving on to the farm trough area, two Turtle Doves flew off as we arrived.  Crested Lark and Rock Sparrows were seen.  A distant Booted Eagle was seen.  We heard a bird calling from the hillside behind us.  I scanned the area and found one of the two Stone Curlews seen.  A first for us at Maria!  I then found a male Northern Wheatear near the sheep feeders.  A Hoopoe flew past.
We left there and drove slowly along the plain.  In the leading car, I saw only Crested Larks at first, but then found a pair of Short-toed Larks.  A pair of Red-billed Chough flew off as we passed.  I spotted our only Common Swift of the day.  Calandra Larks were battling it out above the foot long wheat stems.  At the hamlet we saw only two Lesser Kestrels.  On the way back I spotted a Yellow Wagtail, but missed the Short-toed Eagle and Griffon Vultures the others saw!  Brian also had a Raven.
We returned to the chapel area where the council gang were now painting walls.  A lot of work had been done.  They had refurbished the water trough and the BBQ area had been removed.  Walking up towards the Information Centre, a Melodious Warbler was singing from a shrub top as was a Stonechat a bit further up.  

Male Stonechat Saxicolatorquatus (PHOTO: David Elliott_Binns)
We also had a Serin.  At the Centre the kids were in the building, so we sneaked into the gardens.  Nothing near the pools ( due to the noise?) but we did manage to see a few Bonelli's Warblers as we joined the lower walk.  We met up with Jacky and Steve on their way down. They'd seen Crested, Blue and Coal Tits plus a Subalpine Warbler.  A female Crossbill showed well. Barrie heard a Firecrest and we were lucky enough to get some brief glimpses of a few of them.  We passed the kids as we approached the gardens.  A Subalpine Warbler followed by a Rock Bunting and Bonelli's Warbler took advantage of the relative silence to get a drink.

Melodious Warbler Hippolais polyglotta (PHOTO: David Elliott_Binns)
We then went for lunch at the La Piza forest cafe.  As we enjoyed our snack Chaffinch, Blue, Great, Coal and Crested Tits came to the bird feeders.  We saw a Iberian Green Woodpecker, Mistle Thrush, Jay and a Sparrowhawk the far side of the track.  A female Greater Spotted Woodpecker came to the discarded bread rolls.  On the way back to Velez Blanco I added a White Wagtail and had a positive sighting of a Woodlark.

Female Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major (PHOTO: David Elliott_Binns)
All in all we had a great day. 48 species. Great company, bit chilly though!
Regards, Dave
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