18 May : Los Filabres
It was Helen who requested our trip up the Los Filabres today, so we all knew who to blame if the threatened rain appeared. Mary and I had attended the birding day at Sierra de Maria last Saturday. After an hours lecture on Bird of Prey identification in Spanish we, together with 30 other Spanish, were taken to the Bird/Animal rescue and recuperation centre. We saw a couple of Eagle Owls and Barn Owl and numerous local Tortoises. Then we were taken to the vulture feeding station near Velez Blanco. A few Griffons and a Short-toed Eagle flew over, disappointed that we weren't going to leave a carcase!
25 May : Cabo de Gata / Rambla Morales
Today was a day of pleasant surprises. It began as Gilly, Helen and I drove through Retamar on our way to Cabo de Gata. I know the birders in the west of Andalucia must be fed up with Monk Parakeets, but I spotted our first one. We met up with Brian, Mary, Dave and Myrtle and made for the first hide. The most numerous birds were the Avocets. There were smaller numbers of Black-winged Stilts, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Little Egret and Shelduck. The second surprise was a single breeding plumaged Black-tailed Godwit. Brian then spotted surprise number three.... a pair of adult Gannets flying south along the beach. A Corn Bunting obligingly posed on the fence in front of us.
We disturbed a pair of Stone Curlews close to the track. I was just saying we never usually see them till they fly off when I noticed something under a dead tree next to the salinas edge. Not one, but two Stone Curlews sheltering in the shade. On the odd insect front Gilly spotted a Lacewing species on a bush by the truck.
There was only Dave, Myrtle and myself on this weeks outing to the Sierra de Maria. It's got to be my favourite birding spot at this time of year. Very good birds and the fields were full of poppies. As we arrived at the chapel car park the sun was shining and above us a Booted Eagle. The Nightingale could still be heard near to the public water supply and Myrtle and I both managed to spot the Golden Oriole in the poplar tree.
As we began to walk up to the information centre at the Botanical Gardens two grey clouds arrived on the scene. One was up in the sky which thankfully didn't deposit its contents upon us. The second took the form of a coach full of 7 year old noisy school kids. We spotted a flying Woodlark before they overtook us. We whizzed passed them as they had a welcoming speech from one of the rangers. We had good views of a Short-toed Treecreeper. Myrtle spotted a Long-tailed Tit. Birds were singing all around us, bus now being covered in leaves, spotting them was difficult. We eventually did see Iberian Chiffchaff, Melodious, Bonelli's, Subalpine and Orphean Warblers. There were at least two Common Cuckoos within hearing. They graced us with a high fly past. A Robin made an appearance as did a Mistle Thrush and a Cirl Bunting. A Coal Tit posed very nicely, thank you.
We then headed to the La Piza recreational area. Crossbills were in all the trees around the water deposit. Dave thought he spotted the Hawfinch as Myrtle and I tried to trace the sound of an unusual bird....and failed! We did spot a Griffon Vulture. Rejoining Dave at the deposit we all had good views of a Crested Tit. As we drove off a Rock Bunting was taking a bath in one of the puddles. At the old farm buildings we heard a Green Woodpecker. As I wandered round the back of the buildings, seeing a Rock Sparrow, Dave and Myrtle did see the woodpecker. We saw about 8 Griffon Vultures in the far distance.