11 May : Sierra María

A quickie, thanks to Dave and Gilly and members of the Arboleas Group who have been up the Sierra María with Helen, got back and, as Dave reports, were slightly shaken by the 5.2 Richter scale 'quake in Murcia. And there was Dave wondering if he'd taken too much at lunch...

The weather was sunny, but there was a bit of a breeze today. Gilly and I picked up Helen near Cantoria and we had seen 7 Rollers before we'd got to Partaloa on our way up to Sierra de Maria. As we approached Maria there were Woodchat Shrikes on the power lines. We met up with Brian, Mary, Dave and Myrtle and went to the chapel. We immediately heard a Golden Oriole, which most of us eventually saw. Also heard, but not seen was a Nightingale. I located a Spotted Flycatcher (sorry, Bob) high up in a tree. Crossbills were also seen.

Round the Botanical Gardens warblers were well represented. A very obliging Bonelli's Warbler lured into camera range. Melodious, Orphean, Subalpine and Iberian Chiffchaff were also seen. Woodlark and Stonechat made an appearance. A pair of Cirl Buntings were seen on the walk down to the vehicles.

We stopped briefly at the farm buildings, seeing a Common Buzzard and a pair of Black-eared Wheatears. Along the plain straight, I slowed as I saw a Northern Wheatear which put 5 Black-bellied Sandgrouse to flight past a Little Owl. Way to the north we could see two massive plumes of raptors, presumably Griffon Vultures. I counted at least 50. There were still Lesser Kestrels at the hamlet. Also seen today were a Great Spotted Cuckoo and a Turtle Dove. Gilly had a brief glimpse of the Hawfinch at the La Piza recreational area, but we didn't stay long as the Spanish Army were on exercise there. 43 species in all. Possibly will be back here on Saturday as there is a birdwatching tour(?) organised by the Park Rangers.

Just as I was about to type this report, the house shook for about 5 seconds. We're about 40 mins away from Lorca where a 5.2 earthquake has apparently caused fatalities and major damage! (4 dead at the last count - Andy.)
Dave & Gilly

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