Thursday, 2 September 2021

Sierra de Maria with the Arboleas Birding Group

 Friday 3 September

Dave's most recent report arrived after I had set out for Portsmouth, UK to catch the late night ferry back to Bilbao and the WiFi on board very slow and unproductive.  However, now early on the morning and about 90 minutes away from arrival it is dark and everywhere deserted so hoping that the Internet service might be a little more responsive!   Anyway, good to see that the new season has kicked off well for the Arboleas Birding Group with its visit to the Sierra de Maria and it is certainly whetting my appetite for the homeward journey with a couple of northern lagunas to look in on as I head south.  Then comes the pleasure of joining the group the week after next.

Sierra de Maria   -   Wednesday 1st September

After an interesting two month break, during which time I knocked myself out falling off some stepladders and also badly bruised myself bin hopping, we're back on the road, heading for the Sierra de Maria.  The weather forecast was 20% chance of rain in the morning and 90% chance of rain and thunderstorms in the afternoon, but hey ho, we're not fair-weather birders so I made the executive decision to go for it!  Juda and Liz, a new birder, came round to my house and we headed north on the E15/A7.  Around about Puerto Lumbreres it began to rain a bit, but not enough to clear the Sahara sand from previous showers from my truck.  Hopefully that was our 20% completed. 

We met up with the others at the Repsol Garage cafe in Maria town.  We were joined by Alan, Trevor, Michael, Karen, Peter & Richard.  I decided we'd "do" the loop, foregoing a trip to the Botanical Garden, just in case the heavens did open.  At least we'd be in the vehicles.  I led the convoy, soon seeing House Sparrow, Spotless Starling and a charm of Goldfinches.  A fast, low flying Turtle Dove flashed past.  That was it for the first leg before we turned left just prior to the village, joining the track. We stopped for a scan over the fields and the sky beyond the village.  We added Woodpigeon, Corn Bunting and more Goldfinches.  Alan the spotted a large eagle, which when it came closer the other side of the village, turned out to be a Short-toed. 

We carried on along the track and Juda spotted the first of many Black-eared Wheatears for the day.  I found an Iberian Grey Shrike on a fence.  Also seen were Carrion Crows and Linnets.  Liz pointed out 3 Griffon Vultures soaring to our right.  We stopped for a look-see near the cliffs.  Alan and Trevor had also seen a Hoopoe.  The cliff were devoid of any birdlife.  We saw another Griffon Vulture.  Also seen en route to the cave house village were flocks of Magpies, one containing 27 for sorrow, two for joy etc.  Anyone know what you get for 27!  Passing through the village I added Black Wheatear and Sardinian Warbler.  Heading towards the hamlet I spotted a raptor above the ridge to our left.  Luckily Alan was close behind in his car and identified it as a Marsh Harrier, well away from its normal habitat.  Further along the road, we managed to miss the 70 odd Red Billed Chough, but the members behind us didn't! Alan and Trevor also had a Red-legged Partridge. 

Black-eared Wheatear (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

At the hamlet I added a Northern Wheatear and Karen spotted a Little Owl.  We next stopped at the water troughs.  We saw Rock Sparrows and more Goldfinch and Linnets.  By this time the sun was out and hardly a cloud in the sky.

A most obliging Jay (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

We made our way to the La Piza forest cafe (seeing a plume of 20 Griffon Vultures) where we enjoyed our lunch watching the birds coming down for water and bread.  There was a very obliging Jay plus Great and Crested Tits, Chaffinches and a White Wagtail.  Richard added a Blackbird and a Robin.  Crossbills could be heard in the trees above us.  An Iberian Red Squirrel showed well.

Iberian Red Squirrel (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

What a great day to start the autumn term.  The weather Gods were kind to us as were the bird Gods.  32 species seen. Great company.

I should like to add that Maria was Adrian Speakman's local patch.  He died suddenly and unexpectedly in early July.  Our continued condolences to his wife, Margaret.  Sincere condolences to Val Penny, whose sister died yesterday.

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

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