Thursday 24 January 2019

Sierra Maria & Villaricos with the Arboleas Birding Group

Wednesday 23 January

Double report from Dave and his Arboleas Birding Group this week whilst I was down in barbate/La Janda, Cadiz province.

Day one  -  Sierra Maria day trip with Paul   -   Tuesday 22nd January
Day two  -  Villaricos & Vera Playa with Arboleas Birding Group  - Wednesday 23rd January

Well, it had to be done. Gilly's away for the week and Reyna is still in the Philippines, so Paul and I hatched a plan to have a days birding in the Sierra de Maria.  I picked Paul up from his house in Cerro Gordo.  We took the road from Partaloa towards Chirivel.  We hadn't even reached Oria when a juvenile Golden Eagle, which must have been perched close to the road, took off and crossed the road in front of us at about 6 metre altitude!  A great start to the day.  We carried on to Chirivel and took the road under the motorway and up towards the mountain ridge.  On some fields to our right I spotted a group of feeding black birds.  Red-billed Chough.  One of our target birds of the day...and there were 120 of them!  As we watched and took photos from about 200 metres away, they all suddenly took off.  We couldn't see any reason.  A bit further on we did see a few Griffon Vultures above the ridge, one gliding low along the slope.  We also added a Black Redstart.  It was very cold which may explain the lack of birds.  We reached the farm water trough, one of our usual stops.  The small water deposit had a thin layer of ice covering it.  Apart from Chaffinch and some perched Corn Buntings, Paul spotted an Iberian Green Woodpecker flying away.  Some Linnet came to rest on the fence surrounding the water.
Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We moved on to the plain, seeing more flocks of Linnet, Northern Starlings, Carrion Crows and a Hoopoe.  Down at the hamlet we found Thekla Lark, Rock and House Sparrow.  We headed back to the La Piza forest cafe for a reviving cup of coffee.  There was still no food in the bird feeders but we did see Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Crossbill and Robin.   Paul spotted a Blue Tit.
Leaving La Piza, we turned left towards Maria town, but turned left again towards La Canada de Canepla.  Driving there and beyond we added a Magpie and a flock of 100+ Calandra Lark.  We returned to the village and took a well made track to the right which took us back via the runway to the road a few kilometres past the hamlet.  This road had lots of varying habitats including running streams, reed beds and cliff faces, on which Paul spotted a Black Wheatear.  Also seen were numerous Magpies and a Kestrel.  Heading back to the hamlet we saw more Griffon Vultures and a Stonechat.  Now hungry, we thought we'd go to the campsite for lunch only to discover the cafe was closed Tuesdays!  So it was back to La Piza where we added a Great Tit to the list.  We then headed back over the mountain track seeing the Griffon Vultures again but no Red-billed Chough.  We did however flush two Red-legged Partridge to complete our list for the day.
Red-billed Choughs Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
 A modest 26 species, but we did source more places to visit. It was very cold.  Roll on the spring!
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Day two started with Richard driving round to my house.  I drove his car to pick up Alec and then Paul.  We then made our way to the Rambla de Almanzora.  We checked it out from the road bridge to the ford.  We saw Magpie, White Wagtail, Mallard and Moorhen.  As we waited in the car for the others to arrive, we spotted Stonechat, Carrion Crow, Serin and Collared Dove.  Alan and John arrived next.  They'd also seen a Booted Eagle whilst passing the Consum Supermarket, a Grey Wagtail in the rambla and a Green Sandpiper at the ford. Once Jacky, together with her in laws, David and April arrived, we walked up the rambla towards the sewage works.  The weather was chilly with a bitter wind, which might explain the lack of small birds, but we did manage to see a Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Grey Heron and Wood Pigeon.  Paul heard a Blackbird and John spotted a Hoopoe.
At the large pool, there were Mallard, Common Pochard and a pair of Teal.  Two pairs of Black-winged Stilt were on the water's edge.  I spotted a female Blue Rock Thrush on the far embankment. Paul had a Goldfinch.  As we walked back we saw a Green and Common Sandpiper in the water channel together with a Robin.  Alan and John saw a Water Pipit.  We'd seen various flocks of Northern Starlings flying over.
After a cup of coffee in the Lucky Bar in Villaricos village centre, we made our way to the beach.  On the harbour rocks we saw Yellow-legged Gull and Cormorant.  Alan found a Turnstone and a Sandwich Tern was seen fishing.
Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We wandered over to the estuary.  Apart from more Cormorant we added Coot and Little Grebe.  Alan and I headed for the beach end where we saw Mediterranean and Audouin's Gull together with resting Sandwich Terns.  Meanwhile Jacky had spotted a Purple Swamphen in the reeds.  Joining us on the beach we checked out the beach rocks and found singles of Kentish and Ringed Plover.  Jacky spotted a Black-necked Grebe on the sea as we got back to the vehicles.
Audouin's Gulls Larus audouinii with Sandwich Terns Sterna sandvicensis (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We convoyed down to the dual carriageway.   Richard, Paul and I quickly spotted a Grey Wagtail. Ducks included Shoveler, Mallard, Teal and Shelduck.  Numerous Crag Martins were flying around. John and Alan found a Redshank and some Little Stint.   I found a Black-tailed Godwit.  Alan also spotted a Kestrel.  All at once the large flock of mainly Mediterranean Gulls took to the air as an adult light phase Booted Eagle glided slowly over them.
Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Moving round to the new platform opposite the Acuapark entrance we found more Shoveler and about 35 White Headed Duck.  I spotted another Purple Swamphen on the reed line.  Alan had a pair of Gadwall.  Meanwhile Jacky, who'd walked from the dual carriageway, had seen "her" Red-knobbed Coot.
Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio [right] (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We then left, but Alan and John went to the "Millionaires" lagoon where they had Sanderling and a Gannet out to sea.
We saw a grand total of 52 species in good company, but bitterly cold winds!
Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information

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