Thursday 18 June 2020

Sierra de Maria with the Arboleas Birding Group

Wednesday 17 June

Unlike me, at least Dave was able to visit and stay at his site up at the Sierra Maria (see own blog when published shortly).  And with his Arboleas Birding Group they certainly saw some good birds including the Hawfinch, Golden Oriole and possible Golden Eagle and the idea that there are still Great Spotted Cuckoos to be seen leaves me quite excited. And I wonder if I might catch up with a carrion Crow when I set out to drive back to the UK in three weeks time.

Sierra de Maria   -   Wednesday 17th June

As most of you know, the Sierra de Maria is my favourite local birding patch.  Although we've really missed the breeding season, Maria delivered as usual.  Due to Corona restrictions we had to drive from Arboleas via Partaloa, Oria & Chirivel.  I picked up a new member, Juda, at El Prado and then Neville at the service station past the ITV station in Albox.  We were happy to see a Great Spotted Cuckoo near Oria.  As we neared Maria town I saw two Woodchat Shrikes perched on the power lines.  Also seen were Woodpigeon, Common Swift, House Martin and House Sparrow before we settled down to two coffees at the Cafe de Ana adjacent to the Repsol Service Station.  We were joined by Adrian, Steve, Alan & John. Trevor, whilst Michael & Karen caught up with us at the chapel as they'd been delayed by roadworks.  As I drove up the hill I saw a Serin and a Magpie. Almost as soon as we'd parked we heard Golden Oriole & Jay.  Alan was first to see one of half a dozen overflying Griffon Vultures.  One came over at a reasonably low altitude.  We moved towards the semi circle past the chapel.  John, who'd hung back, came running over to say he'd seen a Golden Eagle, but had disappeared.  Checking the ridge I first saw some Red Billed Chough.  A flock of 50+ was seen later.  Both John & I spotted a single large black corvid flying just below the ridge which had to be a Raven.  I followed a small flight of Spotless Starlings which caused me to spot a Kestrel high above the ridge . I then found a Common Buzzard.  We had a fleeting glimpse of possibly two Golden Orioles as they flew off. 

Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Moving up to the Botanical Gardens we saw Bonelli's & Subalpine Warbler followed by Crossbill, Great & Coal Tit.  Some of us did the low walk.  We saw Jay, but nothing else of note.  As we were leaving we saw a warbler in the vegetable patch.  Got a photo so perhaps one of our friendly experts will confirm its identity!

The mystery warbler! (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
We then drove off in convoy to do the loop.  Alan & John led as I brought up the rear.  We didn't see much.  I had Carrion Crow & Goldfinch.  Trevor thought he had seen a Pied Flycatcher.  Just before the village John & Alan stopped to watch some Northern Wheatears in a ploughed field.  We stopped for scan just after the turning.  We added Corn Bunting & Barn Swallow.  We carried on.  Suddenly shouted "Stop. Roller!"  Sure enough there was one sat not 3 metres from the truck on a post.  The others must have driven passed it without seeing it.  Of course as soon as I got the camera out it flew off!  We saw probably the same one further along the track.  We next stopped near the cliff face.  Alan & John had seen some Linnets.  There were Jackdaws & Rock Sparrows nesting there.  We walked to the far side.  Alan spotted three Turtle Doves.  A Bee-eater was perched on a dead tree.  A Red-legged Partridge flew off.  We heard a Nightingale.

We made our way to the Hamlet.  We were surprised to find that the Lesser Kestrels appeared to have left.  Alan had a wander and saw a Hoopoe.  The only birds we saw on the plain were Carrion Crows & Crested Larks.

We headed for the La Piza forest cafe for lunch which we ate watching the bird feeders and water pool.  We saw Jays, Collared Doves, Chaffinches and a Great Tit.  A Blackbird appeared, but the star was a Hawfinch drinking at the pool.

Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)
Having said our goodbyes we headed home adding a Mistle Thrush & a White Wagtail.  We ended the day with 43 species.  What a good day!  Sunburnt left arm!  Lovely company.

Regards, Dave

Any suggestions to identifying Dave's mystery warbler?  No apparent signs at the base of the bill to suggest a youngster and looking very pale with a yellow hue underneath along with the orange legs.  Reminiscent of a leaf warbler but definite not Chiffchaff nor Willow Warbler and I think not an Iberian Chiffchaff.  I'm thinking possibly either Melodious or Isabelline of the Hippolais family with my money on Melodious Warbler Hippolais polyglotta, especially as the underside is the shade on a sunny stone.

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