Wednesday 21 April 2021

Sierra de Maria with the Arboleas Birding Group

Wednesday 21 April

God to see friend my Dave and his Arboleas Birding Group out and about again.  Obviously, Almeria province has been getting the rain that we have not!  Mind you, they certainly made up for it today with some fabulous birds.

Sierra de Maria   -   Wednesday 21st April

Due to the wet weather it's been three weeks since we ventured out.  Today we went to the Sierra de Maria, my favourite local destination.  I drove up with Juda and Neville via the Santa Maria de Nieve route avoiding Murcia province.  We met up with Adrian, John, Trevor, Peter, Michael and Karen at the Repsol garage cafe in Maria town for a pre-birding coffee.  We headed up to the chapel first, me seeing Linnet and Rock Sparrow en route.  We were joined by Ken and Jennifer.  From the carpark we located a small number of Griffon Vultures sat along the mountain ridge.  We heard an Eurasian Cuckoo.  I spotted a Woodchat Shrike atop a shrub below us.  John did well to find a group of Red-billed Chough playing in the up draughts along the ridge.  Also seen were Woodpigeon, Serin, Goldfinch, Magpie and Spotless Starling.  We walked into the botanical garden.  I spotted a Bonelli's Warbler in a pine tree. Leaving Adrian in the garden, the rest of us did the lower walk.  To start with we didn't see anything. Then Jennifer found a sub adult Golden Eagle soaring with some Griffon Vultures.  I had a fleeting glimpse of a flying Subalpine Warbler.  A Chaffinch was seen.  Adrian meanwhile had added a Crossbill to the list.  On the walk down to the chapel John saw a Mistle Thrush.  Nice to see a pair of Booted Eagles above us.

From there Juda, Neville, Michael, Karen, Ken, Jennifer and myself went down onto the plain whilst Adrian, Peter, John and Trevor did the loop.

Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oneanthe (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

We stopped first at the ruined barn where we were astounded to see a fully armed soldier sheltering! Karen spotted a Barn Swallow flying through the doorway of one of the buildings.  We moved onto the plain seeing Thekla and Calandra Larks.  At the hamlet we saw only one Lesser Kestrel there, but a small number hovering over the fields.  Heading back we stopped at the trough.  First we saw a pair of Northern Wheatear.  I thought we'd seen a Black-eared Wheatear, but it turned out to be another Northern.  Juda added a White Wagtail.  We were thrilled to see 5 Turtle Doves perched in the surrounding trees.

Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni (PHOTO: Adrian Speakman)

We made our way to the La Piza forest cafe for lunch.  We watched the birds coming to the nuts.  Great, Blue, Coal and Long-tailed Tits were normal, but seeing a Jay using the facilities was unusual! Chaffinches hung around below the feeders waiting for scraps.  We all had left by the time the others got there.

Jay Garrulus glandarius (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

I received this list from John from their trip round the loop. Crested Lark, Corn Bunting, Carrion Crow, Raven, Jackdaw, Skylark, Mallard, Northern Wheatear, Grey Heron, Black Eared Wheatear, Kestrel, Red Legged Partridge, Black Wheatear, Collared Dove, Lesser Kestrel, Barn and Red-rumped Swallow, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Rock Sparrow, Calandra Lark, Serin, Great Tit, Blackbird, Coal Tit, Crested Tit, Crossbill, Jay and Hawfinch.  The last 7 on that list I assume to be at La Piza. 

Hawfinch Coccothraustes Coccothraustes (PHOTO: Adrian Speakman)

Combining the two lists, the group saw a total of 48 species.  Very good considering the weather wasn't brilliant.

I have to report that sadly Richard Gunn's wife, Pat, passed away.  I'm sure you'll all join me in sending our deepest condolences.  Also sending our best wishes for a speedy recovery to Phil Naylor who is in hospital with a heart condition.

Check out the accompanying website at for the latest sightings, photographs and additional information

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