Tuesday 1 February 2022

Sierra de Marie with Dave Elliott-Binns

 Monday 31 January

So, whilst I was over near Loja in Granada province starting a day's birding with Mick Richardson, Dave and friends were making a sorte over the Sierra de Marie in Almeria province.  I suspect, probably due to the location, weather and length of time in the field, that we certainly had more variety albeit pleased to see the birds that Dave and friends found in more difficult circumstances.

Sierra de Maria: Monday 31st January 2022

Lucky me had an extra days birding as Alan, a holidaying birder, contacted me to take him out.  At 9 o'clock I picked him up from the Overa hotel and headed towards Los Velez and the Sierra de Maria. We headed straight to the La Piza forest cafe, seeing Woodpigeon, White Wagtail, Collared Dove and Jay en route.  Upon arrival we were greeted with the sight of Crossbill drinking from the deposito adjacent to the "carpark".  I'd bought peanuts with me so we replenished the feeders.  I'd also brought a bottle of hot water to de-ice the water bath.  We sat down for a coffee and watched Great Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Crested Tit and Chaffinch have their nutty breakfast. 

Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

We left there and started to do the loop.  No birds were seen during the forest section, but when we came out onto the agricultural fields we began to see small flocks of Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Linnet. There were numerous sightings of Corn Buntings and a few of Carrion Crows.  A Kestrel posed well on a traffic sign but departed before I could say "Cheese"!   Also seen were Thekla Larks, House Sparrows and a pair of flying Red-billed Chough.  I spotted a pair of displaying Calandra Lark and a couple of Stonechat.  Alan spotted a distant Griffon Vulture which was heading away from us.  As much as I tried I couldn't get close to it.  Near the cliff face there were large groups of resting Jackdaw.  As we passed the runway I managed to snap a posing Kestrel.  Our final bird before getting to the hamlet was a female Black Redstart.
Kestrel Falco tinnunculus (PHOTO: David Elliott-Binns)

No signs yet of any Lesser Kestrels, but we had a good view of a Little Owl sat on top of one of the newer large sheds.

As we headed along the plain we saw a huge flock, 50+, of Calandra Lark flying low over the fields. We spotted some distant Griffon Vultures soaring over to our left.  As luck would have it, we came across a left turn and headed towards them.  We had good views of two plumes of approximately 6 birds a piece.  Alan spotted a smaller bird of prey soaring with them.  I'm pretty sure it was a Sparrowhawk, but couldn't confirm it.  The other plume had a pair of noisy Ravens with it.

We headed back to the La Piza forest restaurant for lunch, only adding Blue Tit to the nut feeding list.  Some Crossbill came for a drink.  From there we popped up to the Botanical gardens to be greeted by the ranger.  He reminded me that the gardens were closed Mondays, but allowed us in for a quick 15 minute wander.  We only heard Crossbill before departing.  Our last bird on the list was a Mistle Thrush.

A good days birding which I think Alan enjoyed. 27 species in total. Good weather and company.

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