Sunday 24 June 2018

Sierra de Maria with the Arboleas Birding Group

Wednesday 20 June

I am off back to the UK at the end of the week so hoping to pick up some good birds on my first stop at the Tablas de Damiel  and it looks as if this month will also see the Arboleas Birding Group starting their summer break as the temperatures begin to soar.  But the penultimate visit certainly produced some lovely warblers, three of which I am still waiting to record this year.  Perhaps I am visiting with the wrong group!  On the other hand, that's the same as saying that you are having no luck in Southampton so, perhaps I had better join the Birmingham group for the day - such is the size of Andalucia and the distances we birders out here seem to travel which, I suspect, we would not dream of doing back in the UK.

Sierra de Maria   -   Wednesday 20th June

For our penultimate trip before our enforced summer break, I decided we'd try and avoid the heat by heading into the mountains.  I picked up Paul and a new member, Alec, from outside Humbugs cafe in Arboleas and headed for Maria.  We met up with Trevor, Ann, Brian and Mary at the Repsol Garage cafe, enjoying a coffee watching the House Martins feeding their broods under the forecourt canopy.  We made our way to the chapel car park where Jacky and Steve had already arrived and had seen Hoopoe.  We checked the area and saw Serin, Chaffinch, Linnet and Willow Warbler near the water trough.  Jacky spotted a passing Short-toed Eagle carrying an unfortunate lizard.  Some Blue Tits were near the water deposit.  Walking up towards the Botanical gardens, I spotted some Griffon Vultures the far end of the mountain ridge.  Jacky then found a pair of Woodchat Shrike guarding a shrub in the middle of the field.
Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Moving into the garden, we had Bonelli's Warbler, Crossbill, Crested, Great and Coal Tit all loitering near the small water pools.  Some Bonelli's Warblers showed really well.  I spotted a distant Raven and Brian had heard an Eurasian Cuckoo.
Bonelli's Warbler Phylloscopus bonelli (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Some of us started to do the lower walk.  At the far end we heard, then eventually saw a Melodious Warbler.  I also had a brief glimpse of a flying Western Orphean Warbler.  We also saw a Jay and Paul possibly had a Subalpine Warbler.  As we got back to the garden area, a female Sparrowhawk flew over. Brian, Mary and Ann, who'd stayed in the gardens also had Rock Bunting and had heard Golden Oriole.  Meanwhile, Jacky and Steve, who'd done the high walk, later told us they'd also heard a Golden Oriole and managed to see it after some stalking!  On the way back to the vehicles, the Woodchat Shrikes were still guarding the shrub and we had a good view of a Woodlark.
We made our way to the ruined farm buildings. We added White Wagtail, Blackbird, Barn Swallow and a Thekla Lark.
Moving on to the sheep's water trough area we saw more Serin and Linnet.  A family of 5 Hoopoe showed well.  A Turtle Dove sped past and Brian spotted a far away Rock Sparrow.
Little Owl Athene noctua (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
It was then onto the plain.  We spotted a Northern Wheatear flying onto a barn roof and a pair of distant Carrion Crow.  Paul saw a flying Lesser Kestrel heading to the hamlet.  When we got there, there were two Lesser Kestrels on the barn roof and another Northern Wheatear on another roof. Brian and Mary had seen a Little Owl on the ruined building further which we'd missed.  We picked it up on the way to the La Piza forest cafe.  Very few birds now coming to the bird feeders, only the odd Great and Blue Tit.  We did see, briefly, a Great Spotted Woodpecker.  On the way out, us in my truck had a Cirl Bunting next to the approach driveway.
Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We ended up with 43 species. Temperatures are rising at last. Good for swimming but maybe not for the birdwatching!
Great company. New member, Alec, seemed to enjoy the day!
Regards, Dave

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