Monday 24 December 2018

Monday 24 December

Just back this morning from a few days in Venice and a week's Adriatic cruise taking in all the historical sites.  Fabulous even if very few birds.  But lots of Black-necked Grebes on the lagoons south of Venice.Meanwhile, good to see that fiorends Dave Elliottt-Binns and his Arboleas Birding Group have been out and about and John and Jenny Wainwright seem also to have an enjoyable visit to the Donana and Odiel - even if they managed to find more rain than us!  Enjoy their respective reports and to all readers a most peaceful Christmas and look forward to a happy and healthy New Year.

Sierra de Maria   -   Wednesday 19th December

No pun intended, but killing two birds with one stone, I decided I could do some birdwatching and pass on Christmas cards to certain members if we went to the Sierra de Maria this week.  I was successful with the latter mission, but the former not so much! I picked up Paul and returning member, Carolyn and we made our way to Maria and were pleased to note the route from the motorway to Velez Rubio was now open.  We didn't see any birds from the car after we passed Velez Blanco, but we were greeted by a Great Tit as we egressed the truck outside the Repsol Garage cafe. Adrian arrived, followed by Richard, Alec, Peter in one car and Alan, John and Val in the next. Richard had seen House Sparrow and Black Redstart and the others, I believe had seen a Magpie as well.  After a refreshing coffee, I decided we'd "do" the plains first as the sun had not yet risen high enough to reach the shaded Botanical Garden area.  We convoyed to the disused farm buildings where we saw about 5 Carrion Crows.  A Raven flew over.  Paul spotted a Jay. On the fields below us we picked out Spotless and Northern Starlings, numerous Chaffinch and a few Goldfinches.  Alan thrilled us by finding a Great Spotted Woodpecker on a distant tree.  I spotted a pair of flying Mistle Thrushes and some Wood Pigeon.
Moving on to the farm water trough area, we we greeted by a tree full of Corn Buntings and Linnets. I'd spotted a Stonechat en route.  Brian and Mary turned up with news . They'd seen a couple of Griffon Vultures, but also that the La Piza forest cafe was closed!  OMG! 
As we left there I spotted an Iberian Shrike perched on a bush.  There was nothing on the plains until I found my faithful Little Owl sitting on the rocky wall nearing the hamlet.  There we added Crested Lark, Rock and House Sparrow.  A flight of White Wagtails flew over as did the odd Griffon Vulture. I spotted a distant Kestrel perched upon a stack of irrigation tubes.
We drove to the closed La Piza.  There were lots of Crossbills perched high in the trees, but nowt else as the nut feeders were all empty.  La Piza will re-open after Kings Day, I presume.
We then went to the Botanical Gardens.  I spotted a Blue Tit on the way up.   Apart from more Chaffinch, we saw some Serin.  A pair of distant perched birds turned out to be Mistle Thrush. Richard and Alec drove up to the gardens as did John.  By the time the rest of us had walked up there they had only seen Crossbill and Chaffinch.
Corn Buntings Emberiza calandra (PHOTO: Dave Elliott-Binns)
We decided to cut our loses and head for the campsite cafe. As we drove down towards the main road we could see a plume of 20 odd Griffon Vultures circling one of the hillocks. Richard, Alec, Peter and Brian and Mary headed home.
We had a good tapas snack in front of a roaring log fire.  On the way home, Paul spotted Red-legged Partridge and a Black Wheatear which made our total 30 species for the day.  Disappointing on the birding front, but good company and it wasn't too cold really!
This being our last official trip of 2018. I'd like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Regards, Dave

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