2 December, Sierra de María, Arboleas Birding Group

Apologies of for late posting but I've had some difficulties with this machine these past few days which I hope are now cured. So, herewith Dave's account of the Arboleas Birding Group's trip to Sierra Maria on 2 December, for which as usual the photo (from a previous trip) is Dave's and, of course, my thanks.

Also, and without detriment to Dave's report, Bob Wright's Axarquía group - visited Fuente de Pieda lake last Thursday. Check in his blog - http://birdingaxarquia.blogspot.com/ - for a full report but suffice to say that the lake is still very dry with one 7 Flamingos seen, 40+ Shelduck and some Shovelers although they hit lucky with Cranes after I left (force majeure), there having been only a family party of 4 on the lake bed.

After several days of high winds Gilly, I and 4 others members of the group decided to make our final visit to Sierra de Maria before the weather becomes too cold. The weather today was perfect. Hardly any wind, the sun shining and a bit of cloud. I noticed the car's outside temperature gauge was registering a bracing 6ºc when we arrived at the chapels car park. We were greeted with the sight of a pair of Short-toed Treecreepers scurrying up the gardens trees. Lots of Robins, Jays, Blackbirds and Mistle Thrushes. On the walk up to the Information Centre a flock of 9 Woodlarks flew over and settled on the rocky ploughed field. Cirl Buntings were quite numerous with a few Rock Buntings as well.

Once inside the Botanical Gardens Gilly, due to new boot problem, took the lower track whilst the rest of us made our way up the medium long track. We saw all the tits, Long-tailed, Crested, Great and Blue. Gilly however saw a very late straggler. A red/grey warbler showed itself well. She thought it was going to be a Dartford, but the telltale white moustache proved it to be a male Subalpine. (talking of stragglers, one of our group, Brian, saw a Roller not two days before at Partaloa). At the La Piza recreation area, there were numerous Crossbills round the water deposit. High in the leafless branches they were joined by a striking Great Spotted Woodpecker.

From there down to the plain and all the way to the Granada border the road is being widened. It is a narrow two vehicle road used a lot by 38 tonners, so the works well needed. Not many birds around due to this, but a Southern Grey Shrike was seen. A Calandra Lark was the best we saw at the hamlet.

A good day made better by the weather. 33 count in all.

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