Thursday 10 October 2019

Sierra de Maria with the Arboleas Birding Group

10 October 2019

With Dave and Gilly now back in the UK until the end of November, the latest report from the Arboleas Birding Group comes from member Alan Fisher.  Presumably, whilst Dave and Gilly are enjoying the rain and wind, not to mention being on hand for the Brexit "bust up" at the end of the month, Alan and friends will still be exploring the local birding sites.  Recognising mention of the "Botanical Gardens" I am presuming that the group were visiting the Sierra de Maria and on Wednesday 2 October but I stand to be corrected and, if so, will amend the specifics.

Sierra de Maria: Wednesday 2 October
Apologies for the late arrival of this report. When my pal Jeff stays with us there's no time for anything other than birding but he went back to the UK this morning.
A large group of us met at the Maria cafe: Adrian with his two friends Gary and Sue, Albert and Jenny, Colman and Louise, John, Kevin, Peter, Richard, Trevor, Karen and Mike and Jeff and me. It was cold up there approaching ten o' clock and there was quite a strong wind. We decided, therefore, to do 'The Loop' first, lunch at La Piza and finish up at the Botanical Gardens. The first part of The Loop is the narrow minor road the A317 and with a convoy of eight cars, stopping to scan for birds was impractical. Nevertheless, a few brief halts and scanning whilst driving slowly did produce a few species, Kestrel, Carrion Crow, Whinchat, Northern Wheatear, Linnet, Corn Bunting, a perched Peregrine Falcon and Rock Sparrow. Ibex were also seen.
The Loop continues along a track which leaves the A317 just before the village of La Canada de Canepla. This is much easier to stop on as there is little traffic to worry about. After a few miles, adding just a few species on the way, we saw a group of Choughs that quickly dispersed to the left of the track. This marked the start of a remarkable period of raptor watching. Griffon Vultures appeared,in the air and in a large group on the ground, some distance away, feeding on a farm animal carcass (later identified as a sheep). Then, Jeff spotted a Golden Eagle flying along the hillside and, one by one, Booted Eagle, Sparrowhawk and Red Kite came into view. It was quite a spectacle.
Other species seen before La Piza were Sardinian Warbler, Spotless Starling, Goldfinch, Barn Swallow, Greenfinch, Magpie, Grey Heron, Wood Pigeon, Crested Lark, Thekla Lark, House Martin, Stonechat, White Wagtail and Raven. At La Piza there was Crossbill, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Crested Tit, Blue Tit, Chiffchaff and a brief sighting of a yellowish Warbler, thought to be Melodious.
There was little at the Botanical Garden area and we added only Robin, Blackbird and Crag Martin.

A total of 39 species but a memorable day with good people.
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus (PHOTO: Alan Fisher)
Comment from Alan to Dave:
Thought you may like to see the attached photo, taken at La Piza. Two 'leaf warblers', presumed to be Willow Warblers, and not Chiffchaffs, because of the pronounced supercilium on both. But what a difference between the two in colouration. The top bird is practically grey but does have the 'right' legs for a WW, i.e. pale. The bottom bird is more like a Chiffchaff in colouration and it does have dark legs. Know anybody who might be able to comment (Patterson, Angel....?).

Editor's Response:
Just goes to show what a mixture of sun, shade and reflection can do to a photograph.  The top bird shows the longer wing, supercilium, orange legs and light breast of a Willow Warbler but appears to whereas the  apparent more likely colouration of the lower bird appears to have dark legs more akin to a Chiffchaff.  I think the dark legs can be put down to shadow (in the shade) whereas the upper photograph suggests that the breast is lighter as a result of the white ground being reflected upwards.  But if now a Willow warbler what other Phylloscopus warblers might they be?  Bonelli's for the top and Iberian Chiffchaff for the bottom spring to mind BUT not white enough for the former and not the cleaner yellow underneath for the latter. Some spring Willow Warblers a dull, greyish plumage and given that, at the present time, there are very many Willow Warblers passing through, I would stick to your original identification and bearing in mind my comment about shade and reflection.

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